Others say nonprofits may now learn to be less controlling of their message and donors. While the ALS Association has supported the challenge and provided its website, information and fundraising links, it’s let the bucket dumpers and donors tell their own stories and issue their own challenges.
“Sometimes nonprofits can be too controlling,” said Michael Dougherty, online and social media marketing manager for Krissoff & Associates, who has also worked with the National Wildlife Federation and Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “What this tells them is that your community knows how to talk to each other on their own. ”
Others, however, worry about too many nonprofits trying to emulate the challenge. Some say the challenge has become more of a silly stunt than an education about ALS and the importance of the cause. Others say that a one-time burst of giving is less valuable than having a committed group of donors giving over a longer period of time.
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Glen Macdonald, president of the Wealth & Giving Forum, said there could even be a backlash against the bucket challenge because the serious message of a disease is getting lost in all the stunts and videos. Some Facebook users have already criticized challenge participants for pouring water on their heads instead of donating to the cause.
“When a little bit of silliness enters in, it can undermine the core essence of the cause itself,” Macdonald said. “A serious social issue should be able to stand on its own merits. The question is whether this is really the sort of spirit behind philanthropy and acts of kindness.”
Macdonald also said that creating a one-time media sensation that raises millions may actually hurt a nonprofit, since they don’t know how much of their giving will be repeatable.
“I’m of the view that what nonprofits need for is consistency in fund flows,” he said. “The best way to do that is to have a committed group of donors who believe in the cause and continue to contribute over the long haul. Not just because it’s a trend or it grabbed people’s attention.”
Perhaps in the end, the Ice Bucket Challenge won’t revolutionize charitable giving. But it has given the sleepy nonprofit world a brief, bracing splash of cold water—and brought home the idea that social media and fun, easy-to-do challenges can have a big impact on social causes.
“I still think that the way nonprofits build personal relationships with ultra-high-net-worth individuals is going to continue,” Berman said. “But this is showing that there are other avenues and other channels. I wish I thought of it myself.”