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How to replicate the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge success

Ever wonder what happened with the ALS Ice Bucket challenge that swept through your Facebook feed a couple years ago?

It turns out, in addition to giving half my Facebook feed an excuse to stand scantily clad and wet on camera, it did raise some money. About $220 million.

And one researcher at Johns Hopkins says all that money allowed their team of scientists to take bigger risks in research and development of new ALS treatments. One breakthrough is on a protein called TDP-43:

“TDP-43 doesn’t do its job in 97% of all ALS cases. Scientists didn’t really know its function—now we do. We also show that it’s something that can be fixed!”

The ALS Foundation says the Ice Bucket Challenge was probably the largest giving event outside of a natural disaster for this kind of scientific research ever.

How can I replicate the Ice Bucket Challenge?

To be fair, you probably can’t. These things are generally somewhat organic, unless there’s enough levers being pulled behind the scenes to get some celebrities or mass media attention to a cause.

But there are some key takeaways if you want to take on such a challenge:

  1. Make your challenge video-based. Clearly people have the ability to easily produce video.
  2. Make it short and capable of being done without editing or equipment beyond a standard smart phone.
  3. Make use of every connection you have at about the same time. Try and get friends, families, and reach out to anyone in your community of a “highly visible position” to do it in advance and publish shortly after you launch.
  4. Ensure your organization’s website is setup to have a neat landing page with information on what you do, what your challenge is about, and what any donations you’re going to receive will go for.
  5. It goes without saying, make sure you have ways for people to actually donate. This can be more than just monetarily. Ensure it’s easy for people to sign up for your lists and social accounts, too.
  6. It doesn’t hurt if the campaign can involve some attractive people doing unusual things.
  7. Recognize that your offline promotion is just as much work as the online.

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Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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