First of all, it’s silly. And second, it’s silly. And third, it made you look. Silly.
I’ve been walking, running, biking, writing, cooking, yard sale-ing, hot dog serving, designing, working and schlepping for charities forever. Cancer, AIDS, hunger, the environment, youth sports, schools, women’s rights, girls’ empowerment, social justice…we’ve written checks to them all. And his weekend I wrote a check, for the first time, to the ALS Association. Then I wrote a second check, to a local nonprofit, the Davis Community Meals Cold Weather Shelter.
I’ve been worn down with our world these last few months. Each day the news shares an event more horrifying than the last, and it all seems so complicated. I barely understand the politics, much less how we can overcome this level of anger, violence and hate—against each other, against our planet, and in the end, against ourselves.
So when this ice bucket thing started showing up in my Facebook feed, I was delighted. I have watched almost every one. They made me laugh, and at the same time, made me think about ALS. I loved that something so serious could be addressed with something so silly. And that I could watch friends of all ages, plus athletes and celebrities, reinventing an activity that always ends with a laugh, and presumably, a donation. I was intrigued from a marketing standpoint. How many times have I sat in meetings where clients have challenged us to make a video that would go viral (yeah, it doesn’t work like that)? On the flip side, I’ve had more than one friend say in the past week, “Since when did it require a bucket of ice to get people to donate?” Well, spontaneous giving is never really spontaneous.
Viral videos and movements spread when one person feels so deeply and so passionately that they do something remarkable, from their heart, and can’t wait to share it with the next person. And then next person shares it, and the next person. They own the message and they shape the context in a way that is true for them.
And it happens when the time is right. Last year Seth Godin wrote short piece about how to write copy that will go viral that has stayed with me.
“…Make an impact on just one person. Even better, make it so they can’t sleep that night unless they choose to make a difference for just one other person by sharing your message with them. The rest will take care of itself.”
With the ice buckets, I think the timing was right, and we were all ready for some positivity. We need something right now, to help center us and remind ourselves that we do make a difference. Some joy and some silly. And good for ALSA for being on top of this, and being prepared and ready to take advantage of this amazing opportunity. As of Sunday, August 24, they’ve raised $41 million dollars. Fortune did a nice piece on how this money will support research for years to come, and why we should feel confident that they will use our donations wisely.
Another concern I’ve heard is that this will take money away from other charities. Maybe it will encourage us to imagine other places where we can donate. Donations aren’t always for the end of the year, and the “giving season” is year round. That’s what happened for me, and that’s why I’m writing two checks.
Finally, some think this will be a blip for ALS and folks will forget about it next week. Some might. But if you take a few moments and read some of the pieces my friend Melinda Welsh wrote about her brother, Dr. Marty Welsh, and his experiences with ALS, I promise you won’t forget. Start here: Ruleboy Lives. Then go here: Ruleboy’s Passing. And then read this OpEd piece of Marty’s that ran in the LA Times several years ago: 100 Things.
So didn’t actually pour the bucket of ice over my head. Blame it on technical difficulties, or the fact that I am a delicate flower (you knew that, didn’t you?). We did a workaround … one bucket, two beers, and two checks. Because that’s how we roll.
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