Since I did the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, I’ve seen many question its purpose. I’ve seen it called “dumb,” “pointless,” and “attention-whoring.” If you think that, here’s why you’re wrong:
First, let’s look at the concept of the challenge: Donate $100 to fight the devastating disease known as ALS, or dump a bucket of ice water on your head. Or, as many, many people like me have done, you can do both.
The goal of the brilliant campaign is to build both awareness and funding for a group that fights the disease. Many people are simply donating the money, but the gimmick of the ice bucket is what captured our collective nationwide attention. It’s a two-pronged campaign, with the buckets of ice helping build awareness that prompts donations, and it’s effective: according to Time, the ALS Association has received $5.5 million in donations since July 29. For the same time period in 2013, the charity received only $32,000.
The ALS Association proudly announced that, as of August 14, it has 150,000 new donors to its cause [Update: The New York Times reports that, from July 29 to August 17, ALSA has received $13.3 million and welcomed 260,000 new donors, and numbers are “expected to rise.”]. While the President of the Association Barbara Newhouse says she appreciates the monetary aspect of the Ice Bucket Challenge, she says, “the visibility that this disease is getting as a result of the challenge is truly invaluable.” Monetary donations coupled with social-media-friendly stunts build awareness and encourage others to give in a way that quietly donating cash does not. That’s what that silly tub of cold water does; audiences get a little entertainment, which helps the viralness of the cause and encourages donations. It also strives to make people want to learn more about the disease, and what organizations like the ALS Association are doing to fight it and provide assistance to those living with it. We could certainly all do more for this and other causes, but I’ll take so-called “slacktivism” over no action any day.
One thing I know for certain: criticizing the campaign helps no one. I’ve seen outright dismissals of the campaign, public accusations of participants’ motivations and passions, and was personally accused of having no connection to the cause, which is as myopic and malicious as it is wrong. And irrelevant.
Is the Ice Bucket Challenge a public display of generosity? Absolutely, and that’s not something people are always comfortable with. I donate time and money to causes that I feel are worthy, and I usually do so privately. But these collective public displays got the ALS Association attention (and subsequent donations) that it would not have received otherwise. And whatever one’s motivations to donate are, their dollars still fund critical research and enhance the lives of people with ALS, something condemnatory words don’t.
There is far too much negativity and superficiality in this world, especially on social media, so why add to it in the face of a positive movement? If you feel need to publicly condemn or impugn the motivation of participants, it says more about your own self-serving nature than others. Why focus on that and not the generosity, goodwill and, yeah, a bit of silliness that ultimately will make the world a better place? Forgive me for not understanding your displeasure when thousands of people rally together for some fun and simultaneously raise millions of dollars to eradicate a horrible disease.
The purpose is to help people, and it’s working.