Fundraising and the #IceBucketChallenge

Normally when I select a subject to write about I try and choose one that is rarely discussed. But today I have broken my own rule by selecting the Ice Bucket Challenge. I am on social media a lot, and this is the one subject that has dominated my feeds this week. I have even read many pieces in the press about it, so I thought if I can’t beat them I will join them, and add some of my own thoughts to the debate. Firstly I have to declare, that I have my own fund within my hospital, which I raise money for on an ad hoc basis, to purchase specialist equipment for the ward that looks after me. There are no admin costs to run the fund and I discuss with the professionals how the money is spent. This means that I can see a tangible result for my efforts, which motivates me. I have never been a lover of donating money into a vast pot, never really sure how my money is being used. Of course, charity giving is a very personal thing, and we all do things differently.

The Ice bucket Challenge 3 During my involvement with charities, I have seen a massive change in the way that funds are raised, particularly with the addition of social media. Large teams of professional fundraisers, and media specialists, attack their target market. Leave an email address somewhere and you will be chased by people asking you to donate by direct debit or increase your current donation. This is being accelerated by sponsored adverts on Facebook and Twitter etc. It is so easy to donate these days, and campaigns encourage you to text, then of course they have your details to chase you after you have done your challenge. So your small donation may only be the start of things!

Naturally, the world is a better place for charities, and I am sure that at some stage in our lives we will all benefit from services provided by one, and to provide those services an income is required. Many people find that ‘good cause giving’ makes them feel a whole lot better about themselves, which means everyone wins. But I am starting to question what I interpret to be cynical marketing. I am starting to see a non stop barrage of challenges where people nominate others through social media, which is fine for a bit of fun, but there are people who feel totally uncomfortable and feel obliged to donate. Celebrity led in most cases, they raise their profiles, everyone follows, and the charity raises money.

If all publicity is good publicity then the Ice Bucket Campaign has been a massive success, and I’m sure when I ask my fundraising friends they will say it is incredible, but I have seen a lot of unexpected feedback, some quite acidic. I have read many different reports as to where the challenge originated but the major impact was in the U.S.A where it was called ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  Then it was adopted in the U.K for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. (MND) However not unusually it seems that other charities are also seeing the benefits of this challenge, in particular Macmillan Cancer Support.

The Ice Bucket challenge Wow, I am seeing some incredibly vociferous people talking about how the campaign has been ‘hijacked’ and it is taking money away from ALS/ MND, and accusing other charities of ‘piggybacking’ this successful campaign and I wanted to open up this discussion further. Charity fundraising is a very competitive place, where seemingly the large get larger and the small get left behind now. But isn’t it up to us to decide who gets our hard earned cash? If we don’t agree how  organisations operate, then surely the answer is don’t donate? There is very little that is unique these days, and who can say who ‘owns’ a particular challenge? If people want to donate to a cause in whatever way they wish, then they should be able to.

Obviously adding the FUN to fundraising is a great plus for everyone, and charities are making the most of this particular fad, but they should, shouldn’t they? What a lot people seem to forget is that many of these people are well paid professionals, doing a job of work for their employer. Some people seem to have the idea that people who work at charities should all be volunteers. Charity has become big business in many cases and needs to be run that way, employing specialists in media and marketing. Are people doing the challenge and donating money to the wrong causes because they are confused what it is for? No, I’m sure not, but I do understand the anger of perceived ‘copying.’

However with the speed that these campaigns move, it seems if you don’t join in you miss out, and if I was in charge of a team of fundraisers I would be asking why we didn’t join in! The Ice bucket Challenge 1 My personal worry is that many smaller charities are getting left behind as fundraising crazes go viral. The other major concern for me is that I truly wonder if people give the consideration of donating money, the thought that it deserves. Are you donating to the cause you believe in, or because you are having fun on the internet and it has become ‘fashion’ or appears on the TV frequently? Marketing campaigns are there for a reason, and many charities doing wonderful work cannot afford them, but that doesn’t make them less valuable.

What has come out of this for me, is that people need to think more carefully about who they want to give money to and how they do it. Great if you can have fun, and challenge yourself and others too but it can also be done quietly! As always these are my views and I would love to hear yours. If you have done this challenge, who have you done it for and why?


  1. I have been following this (mostly on twitter) all week and have found some of the comments aimed at Macmillan quite nasty. I do think that these kind of things do tend to get out of hand and sometimes people just do the challenge and forget to donate. Also I agree that smaller charities often get left out (as is often the case) as the bigger charities, with all their fundraising and publicity muscle, take over and swamp everything else.

    Most of us have our own personal reasons for donating to specific charities and we only have so much money that we can spare to donate to them so I can understand the feeling being expressed by some people of feeling emotionally blackmailed into donating to a specific charity. I donate to causes close to me and, apart from the auctions I run on Facebook, I do it privately. I don’t need to do a public challenge aswell. Another interesting and thought provoking blog Chris.

    • The comments that you refer to Kaz are the reason that I chose to write this piece. I agree entirely that we all have our own reasons for donating to whichever charity we do, and I imagine that most of us do it privately.

      This internet craze has taken off quickly, remember the nomakeupselfie and young Stephen and Teenage Cancer Trust? I suppose that the thing about social media is that it gives us all a voice and it seems many are making it known that they don’t like what Macmillan have done here. But there are ways of voicing that opinion without some of the toxic comments I have seen.

      At the end of the day, the consumer must decide, and either support, or not if they don’t like what the organisation stands for. My concern in all of this is the smaller charities. Thx Kaz x

  2. As always Chris, an excellent Blog. I totally agree with you. I find it quite sad that, so much negativity has been raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge and the original concept has been lost. I used to donate monthly to Macmillan but stopped sometime ago because I believed too much of my donation goes toward running the Charity rather than directly helping those who suffer from Cancer.

    I’m not sure what the answer is but would like to see a review of how charities operate and how effective the conversion of donations into direct help is.

    • Hi Ken, thanks for sharing your thoughts, and mine are on similar lines. Most charity accounts are available to view publicly, but many are quite well disguised when it comes to the nitty gritty To be fair as we are both well aware, if you want someone to help you raise a lot of money, they will also deserve to be well rewarded.

      One of my own concerns is that there is such a chase on for income,that there is less focus on what is done with the money. I am interested to watch as this saga unfolds! Chris

  3. Chris you get it! This week I wrote on this too, “I work for a charity so I can only be pleased when people give to a good cause, but I am glad not to have been nominated for the ice bucket, the thing is I think we should try and help others however we can, every day, and I worry that the media backs the campaigns that fit their needs rather than the most deserving cause? I am grateful today that people are giving to this campaign, but I hope that they are also doing what they can for their local communities and (sad to say) for the elderly and lonely next door…” -you understand 🙂

  4. Hi Ailsa
    I’d like to think I get it! But to be fair, I have been working with charities now for many years and can see both good and bad, so I have a more rounded view than most.

    We both have similar views about helping people I think Ailsa, and it is not always about just giving money, although of course without that nothing can happen.

    My view is that there is a lot of valid criticism in the negative comments but there are much better ways of making your point, than swearing etc. Having said that, the publicity has no doubt made decision makers think a bit. Thanks for sharing! Chris 🙂

  5. Exactly the reason I make sure my meagre donation goes directly to charity I choose I’ve never felt pressured to comply with ‘ice bucket’ craze,not meaning to be ‘killjoy’- would rather make sure my money goes directly to charity. Must commend courage those who douse themselves!!!

  6. Great blog post Chris. When my kids were little they said they had Jeans for Genes day at school and could they have £1. So I said what is the donation for? And they replied ‘we wear jeans’ and I said yes, I know that and what about all those £1 – where will they go and how will that help? They replied ‘MUMMY WE WEAR JEANS, WE GET TO WEAR JEANS, THAT IS WHY WE TAKE £1,’ and all sighed and rolled their eyes at me because I didn’t get it. Haha. I asked the school if they might consider inviting the charity in for an information talk. I believe teaching from a young age the importance of understanding a bit more about what happens when that coin leaves your hand, can only be a good thing. Then the next year it was Comic Relief, and it was like Groundhog Day ‘it’s because we all wear red noses Mummy!’ 🙂

  7. Hi Lindsey, glad u enjoyed the post! Your story with your children is a good one, and is an example of what is happening now. Of course it should be fun, when raising money, and no doubt people will raise more if it is, but my concern is that these campaigns take away the real focus of WHY people donate money, and to who.

    Even with the no make up selfie, everyone was doing it, but I’m not convinced they had really thought about where the money was going. Of course it is up to the consumer to decide, and I hope that the controversy around the Ice Bucket Challenge has helped people to understand why they are donating money, and how that money is used.

    Onto Coffee Morning now!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lindsey, much appreciated, Chris 🙂

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