Social Memes, Chain Letters and the WAVE

As someone who conducted ALS research between 1995 and 2010, I have been watching the Ice Bucket Challenge promoted by the ALS Association unfold with interest. I have seen numerous friends, family members and colleagues post their “challenge” videos to Facebook. It has raised significant awareness and money! $31.5 million as of August 20, 2014.

One of my cousins challenged me today (her video is private else I’d share it) to participate and my response was and is “Seriously?!”

I am not a joiner. I do not understand or participate in social memes. I didn’t understand the chicken scratch game in middle school even though all of the cool kids were doing it.  I admit I might have fallen prey to a few pyramid scheme chain letters at that age, but the money I sent out did not exponentially return to me, in my mailbox, in 7 to 14 days. I don’t do standing ovations unless I am incredibly inspired. I am “that person” staying seated during the WAVE.

(Video of World Record Setting Wave)

Perhaps more importantly, I have already dedicated 15+ years of my life to ALS research. And over the years, I have donated thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of my time to the cause. And while the ALS Association is great, there are many other organizations at the local, regional, and national levels making important contributions to patients, families, policy, research, therapy development, etc. The ALS Hope Foundation, MDA, the ALS Therapy Development Institute, and the NINDS  come to mind here in the USA. There are many more groups who are just as important and just as dedicated to the cause.

Some folks think this specific challenge is GREAT. See for example the Forbes Article: Think the Ice Bucket Challenge is Stupid – You’re Wrong.

Interestingly, if Seth Godin is correct, many more people are PUBLICLY dumping ice on their heads (90%) rather than making a contribution….Slacktivism (now here’s a word I hope makes it into the next urban dictionary. Awesome). But if you think of this initiative in terms of a marketing expense, it’s incredible. It’s gone viral. In another week or three pretty much anyone with a computer will know about ALS, and the Ice Bucket Challenge.

I remain torn. Most non-profits are stuck with the same handful of events per year to help raise money and awareness – golf tournaments, walks, wine tastings, “friend” raising events, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, silent auctions, costume parties, “themed” events around sport heroes or movie icons or political leaders. This Ice Bucket Challenge is pretty novel and impressive in the caliber of people participating publicly. But does this mean it’s the new “walk” event for EVERY  non-profit in every state? What’s next? Hot dog eating? Setting yourself on fire? Oh wait kids are already doing that on their own. And dying.

For future reference: If it’s a good cause (to me), I will write a check. Just ask. I enjoy silent auctions and wine tasting events that raise money for their organizations. Big thank you to Beth for telling me about and joining me for Corks and Forks in Denver last week – wine, good cause (National Sports Center for the Disabled), great location (Denver Botanical Gardens).

And of course, you already know that if my friend Martha is sponsoring, I’ll be there.

Posted in Notable Nonprofits, Philanthropy, Promising Research
One comment on “Social Memes, Chain Letters and the WAVE
  1. Adam Kenny says:

    For whatever it’s worth, you are not the only person remaining seated during The Wave. A fella who looks a hell of a lot like me does as well.