In August ALS Canada raised three times more in one month, than it typically does in a year.
The Ice Bucket Challenge, a successful viral Internet fundraising campaign for ALS, or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, started in the United States and rapidly made its way to Canada when NHL superstar Sidney Crosby had ice water dumped on his head and challenged others to do the same, in a bid to raise funds for and awareness of the neurodegenerative disorder.
Over the month of August, when ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos dominated social media feeds around the world, ALS Canada raised more than $12 million.
In a normal year, the ALS Society of Canada raises around $4 million for research and support for patients with ALS, said Brigitte Labby, ALS Canada's manager for northeastern Ontario.
When Ice Bucket Challenge videos first hit the web, people mostly donated to the American ALS Association.
“We started right away with our own campaign,” Labby said. “Our goal was initially $100,000, then we bumped it up to $1 million. We kept increasing and surpassed $1 million per day.”
JP Rains, strategy director with Toronto-based digital agency Soshal, and formerly Laurentian University's manager of digital strategy, credits the Ice Bucket Challenge's success to a few factors.
“Ultimately, people on social networks want to have something to share,” he said. “These charities have created an outlet for that. In my opinion, this is what the future of online donations is moving towards.”
Rains said the key to the Ice Bucket Challenge's long-lasting appeal has been how it encourages participants to challenge their friends, colleagues and family members.
After a participant dumps ice water on their head, and encourages viewers to pledge to ALS Canada, or other similar foundations, they normally challenge three other people to do the same.
The challenge aspect has given the Ice Bucket Challenge a longer shelf life than many similar social media campaigns, Rains said.
The last fundraising campaign to do something similar, he said, was Movember, in which men are encouraged to grow moustaches throughout the month of November, and raise funds for prostate cancer research.
But as more fundraising campaigns turn to social media, Rains said it will be more difficult for success stories to cut through the noise.
“The more of these types of videos and campaigns come out, the less effective they become,” he said. “There's no way around it.”
Frank Chartrand, account director and partner with Sudbury-based marketing firm Bureau, said he commends the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on its success, but also feels sorry for smaller charities that may try to match it.
“It's an awful disease and they've done an excellent job raising awareness and funds,” he said in an email. “But I feel sorry for smaller charities who are going to try and come up with the next viral fundraising campaign and have a tougher time raising that type of money.”
Others have criticized the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge for drawing attention toward the videos themselves, and away from the disease in some cases.
But ALS Canada's Labby said even videos that don't mention the disease are part of a larger conversation.
“It's okay, because people are having conversations they've never had before,” she said.