As I write this, thousands of people across the nation are taking the ice bucket challenge. Perhaps you have been one of the participants called out by your friend, colleague, or even son or daughter! At our house, our boys have found joy in calling out their friends and parents.
Their fascination with this social media phenomenon started, however, by watching the ESPN special on Pete Frates who was one of the first people to promote the ice bucket challenge to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
It has been 75 years since Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with this horrible disease, yet Pete's prognosis is the same as Lou's lo these 75 years later. What started as a challenge to some friends and sports stars has raised more than $88 million to date for ALS.
As a recent article in Fortune noted, the amount raised via the ice bucket challenge far surpasses the $2.1 million raised by the ALS Association (ALSA) during the same period last year and more than triples the $24 million raised in its last fiscal year.
The article goes on to point out some key points under consideration by the ALS Association in terms of spending these donated funds – a happy but complicated situation.
At stake here are several factors. First, the ALSA is focused on funding the best possible research to find a cure for this tragic disease as is the implied donor intent of the millions of wet heads across the nation who have donated funds in addition to or in replacement of getting soaked.
However, the ALS Association did not start the ice bucket challenge and now must create a plan for the use of these funds.
Second, some say that ALS Association has to worry about its charitable ranking via watchdog groups like Charity Navigator which require that that the majority of a non-profits’ annual revenue should be spent on programming, ranging from 60% to 75% of annual revenue. This may indicate the need to make decisions and fund research faster than is prudent to maintain ALSA's four star ranking from these watchdog groups.
As quoted in a news release on August 26, 2014, Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of the ALS Association said “Every day, given this dramatic increase in funding, the scope of what’s possible when it comes to fighting this disease has changed and continues to change,” Newhouse continued. “Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, we are putting a decision-making process in place to address how this money will be spent. This is isn’t a matter of spending these dollars quickly—it’s a matter of investing these dollars prudently to achieve maximum impact in our quest to help people living with the disease and those yet to be diagnosed.”
This approach gives me faith that the funds will be used in the best possible way, at the intersection of urgency and prudency, to really move the needle and find a cure.
So, what happens when the bucket dries up?
My hope is that the amount of awareness about ALS that has been generated by the ice bucket challenge will remain high and that this current phenomenon will transition into ongoing support for a cure and awareness of all of those who suffer from ALS and their families and caregivers.
And, I hope that this spurs continued giving – and the feeling that giving is fun and is a shared experience with those around us.
Finally, I hope that we learn from the example of Pete Frates and others who have taken what seems to be a small idea and made a huge impact. Just think what could happen if everyone acted upon one good idea or good deed – we could truly change the world and have a lot of fun doing it!