als ice bucket challenge

Small non-profits might not ever be able to recreate a fundraising campaign that is as successful as the whopping $106 million (as of September 2, 2014) ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Fundraiser. Even if small non-profits did their job well, odds are they could raise a fraction of the funds and reach a fraction of the people ALS reached this past month. It may seem so discouraging. Why even try to make a “viral campaign”?

The ALS Association is a good case study for small non-profits to see what the secrets are to create a successful fundraising campaign. We see that it is all about the three P’s of non-profit fundraising campaigns:

1) People
Non-profits could not exist without the support of their donors and activists. The success of a non-profit is entirely tied to the support of their donors. Therefore, there is no such thing as a fundraiser that is an “overnight success.” After all the hype the Ice Bucket Challenge has received, it is hard remember that it did not originate from the ALS Association itself. Instead, loyal ALS-specific donors and supporters who were active with the Association picked up the generic campaign “do this or donate to any charity.” What the ALS Association can be accredited for is creating and sustaining, over decades, a group of active followers who were dedicated to their cause by communicating and interacting with through e-mail and social media.

Once more, the evidence of influence people have on a campaign is apparent when numerous celebrities jumped on board and took the challenge. These high-profile people got other people aware, interested, and prompted them to action. Although they may not be on the A-List, every non-profit has donors who can play the role of a big-time celebrity for your small non-profit. These “celebrities” are people that are respected in their large networks and are not afraid to encourage their friends and followers to participate along with them. Engaging with your donors by talking and reaching out to them, getting them invested in your next fundraising campaign, and asking them to help spread the word are all necessary components to having a successful fundraising campaign. That is not “overnight success,” but rather, the hard work of building long-term relationships.

2) Platform
If the Ice Bucket Challenge teaches us one thing, it is this: never underestimate the power of social media. The platform in which you give your non-profit a voice is vital. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge worked because it got individuals involved and it gave them a role to play. Furthermore, it gave them a fun role to play. The platform in which ALS was heard was a compilation of hundred of thousands of individual voices and personalities doing the same thing – pouring water on their head to raise awareness for a good cause. Without social media, nobody could have had the ability or desire to share something as silly as pouring called water on their head. Without the reach of an interconnected Internet world, The Ice Bucket Challenge may have only surmounted for some people as being the last resort to cool down on a hot summer day.

3) Perspective
Fundraising revenue increases are all relative. The ALS Association increase was close to 30 times more this past month than the previous month. That increase meant a fundraising increase 60 million dollars! This shouldn’t scare small non-profits into a paralyzed state, however. Just because the numbers will be less dramatic than $60 million, it doesn’t mean that the increase difference can’t be accomplished by small non-profits too. If you normally raised $10,000 per month, it could mean that you raise $100,000 to $300,000 this month. Additionally, perspective for small non-profits on the term “Going viral” should be altered to mean having their idea being shared to hundreds of people on Facebook within one local town instead of millions of shares on an international level. It’s a slow process in the beginning, but like the ALS, after years (and perhaps decades) of reaching out and gaining loyal donors through small fundraising campaign, maybe your non-profit could eventually have their own “overnight success viral campaign.”

If you would like to donate to the ALS Association please click here.