Ice Bucket Challenge: Fact from Fiction

A few weeks ago, many of us had never heard of the #IceBucketChallenge. Now, Tesco is selling so many ice cubes for the challengers that it has started donating profits […]


A few weeks ago, many of us had never heard of the #IceBucketChallenge. Now, Tesco is selling so many ice cubes for the challengers that it has started donating profits from ice cube sales to the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA.)

What’s behind the challenge? The sensation of filming icy water being dumped on your head and uploading the content to social media (seemingly for charity) has gone viral. While millions of videos are cramming our Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds, we ask is it just a bit of fun or has this been the most widespread charity fundraising campaign to date?

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America’s ALSA has announced that #IceBucketChallenge donations have reached $100 million (approx. £60 million) over the past month, with over 3 million Americans having donated. During the same time period last year, the association raised $2.8 million (approx. £1.7 million.) In the UK, the MNDA has received over £3.5 million in donations.

Douglas Graham, Director of Fundraising at MNDA, said the charity has seen a seven-fold increase in donations this August compared to a standard month from last year. He told the Telegraph:

We received an average of 13,000 donations a month last year. From the Ice Bucket Challenge we have now had over 600,000 donations.

A recent survey in the UK showed that less than half of Britons who had taken the Challenge had given to a philanthropic cause. Nevertheless, the social media-powered challenge has had a positive affect when it comes to raising awareness of ALS. Carrie Munk, spokesperson for ALSA, said,

The money is wonderful, but the real positive story out of this is the visibility that this disease is getting.

So, what’s the harm in it? Some self-promotion for a lot of charity is surely justifiable.

The downsides: a large amount of water is being wasted. Many have opted out of the bucket part of the challenge and chosen to donate to Water Aid instead. Some have even uploaded a challenge video of themselves drinking a glass of water!

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While it may be incredibly irritating to have social media dominated by the #IceBucketChallenge, without the abundance of videos one of the most successful social media charity campaigns of all time would not be possible. No one’s forcing you to participate, donate or watch.

Where is the money going?

 All MND-related charities are inundated with gratitude, Carrie Munk, ALSA spokesperson told Forbes press,

This amount of money … it opens up new opportunities that were previously unfathomable.

The ALSA is a highly respected charity, but it is no surprise that successful fundraising to this scale will come with controversy. According to ALS documents, a mere 27% of donations go to research. Considering this is why many people are donating, the news is causing some panic.

But wait, we cannot expect every penny to be spent on research. We have to consider patient and family care (19% of ALSA finances go towards this) and public and professional education which funds medical education and teaches the general community about the disease (32% goes towards this crucial initiative). When looking at these stats, and seeing that administration fees take only 7% out of the association’s budget, it does not seem so dramatic.

Indeed, there are a few extortionate salaries at the hierarchy of the ALSA, but is this not the same for all large organisations? In charity, we like to think that everyone contributes for nothing in return, but unfortunately, not all “charity” can be voluntary and those whose careers mean working a full time executive job will get that 6-figure salary.

Barbara Newhouse, ALSA CEO and President recently stated:

I know that many people are wondering what the ALS Association is going to do with these donations. My answer is this: invest prudently in helping people with ALS and their families and caregivers in the battle against the disease, while resolutely pursuing all avenues to extend, improve and ultimately save lives.

In the UK, MNDA has said it will use the money raised to fund research and provide care and support for sufferers and their families. A spokesperson for MNDA said:

The unprecedented amount of money that has been raised will have a huge impact on the work we can do on this poorly understood but devastating disease.

One thing is for sure, the organisations will be able to save money on fundraising for the time being.

Presently, we can only sit back and await the outcome, hoping that the money will be used efficiently.

We’ve had #IceBucketChallenge and #NoMakeupSelfie- what will the next charity-related social media trend be? What are your views on the Challenge? Let us know in the comments below!