The rules of the challenge are simple. Once somebody has been challenged, they have 24 hours to pour a bucket of ice water over their head or donate money to a charity involved in research for ALS. If they choose the water, they still need to donate.

Trends such as the ALS challenge are often criticised for being nothing more than just an internet fad where many individuals participate in the activity without actually donating to the cause that they are trying to raise awareness for.

The question many people have been asking is whether this may be true in this particular case. Is the ALS ice bucket challenge actually achieving its purpose?

Reports suggest that the trend may indeed be fulfilling its purpose. Both and say that over $100 million has been raised for ALS research in the past month and a half from the donations of over three million people. The problem with such trends may not be that they struggle to raise funds for the cause that they are promoting but rather that interest in such activities begins to fade over time. One does not have to look that far in the past to identify awareness trends that have lost their appeal. highlights the Stop Kony campaign as one of the prime examples of this problem. The purpose of the Stop Kony campaign was to get militant Ugandan leader Joseph Kony arrested for his crimes against humanity, which included forcing children to become child soldiers in various countries in west Africa.

Videos and articles associated with the campaign flooded social media for some time, but interest waned almost as quickly as it was created. People may remember what the cause was about when asked about the campaign, but most have probably not even thought about it since the campaign lost popularity.

How can we prevent this from happening to future social media campaigns? In an article titled “ALS ice bucket is not a catalyst for long-term behaviour change” on Guardian. com, Rachel Collinson, a consultant at British fundraising agency Xtraordinary Fundraising, suggests that organisations need to capitalise on the popularity of such trends and attempt to create a sustainable campaign that continues to generate awareness and donations. She suggests that this be done by creating another campaign thanking the public for donations and that will explain more about what the issue at hand is and exactly what the donations being made are being used for.

It may be true that if one does not attempt to create a sustainable campaign, the large number of donations made throughout the campaign will be a one-time occurrence.

Therefore, if you participate in the challenge remember to have fun, but at the same time do not forget the purpose behind the challenge: awareness. Interest in the ice bucket challenge will probably fade, but ALS will still be around when it does. Donations for such causes should not only be the result of a popular internet trend.  


 Illustration: Johann van Tonder and Charlotte Bastiaanse

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