For what it’s worth, my personal preference is to avoid all viral-Facebook-related things. I don’t tag folks to do this or that. I don’t participate when tagged. It’s just really not my thing. Also Facebook is not my favorite. However, when my kids were called out to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a few weeks ago, I knew we had to participate.
I enjoy giving money away. Let me rephrase that: I enjoy the fact that my family and I are in a fortunate enough position to be able to financially support causes that are important to us from time to time. My uncle passed away from ALS a couple years ago and my aunt has a fundraising team every year. We’ve not always been able to give and I hate not being able to contribute to causes, especially because I was a cause once.
As a teen I benefited from the generosity of others when I was treated at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. We couldn’t afford my surgeries and chemo treatments, especially when I had to change from being an outpatient to an inpatient for the treatments (the drugs made me too sick to make the nearly two hour drive back and forth to the hospital). But in the years since, living as a cancer survivor, what I’ve learned about fundraising is this: it’s not easy. Especially for an enormous cause like “cancer” – do you know how many types of cancer there are? Me either.
A UNITED CAUSE
In the case of ALS, there aren’t hundreds of different kinds. There are three. And at least 90% of cases are one of those three. So when you are raising awareness or raising funds it is for ALS, period. One cause. With cancer, there are so many different types and each has it’s own organization. There are so many types of cancer they have to share awareness months. Even I can’t spread my love out over the year because ovarian cancer awareness and childhood cancer awareness are the same month. It’s a little much to take in if you are a potential donor or supporter to try to decide which cancer deserves your attention and/or money. (And please note, I am meaning to compare the fundraising and awareness side of these illnesses only. Not the illnesses themselves.)
SOCIAL MEDIA VANITY
We are a Facebook people these days. How many times during your day do you start a sentence with “I saw on Facebook”? And so many of the things we see on Facebook are funny or touching videos. Omigosh – you mean I can do one of those, too?
This Ice Bucket Challenge was the perfect opportunity for anybody with a smartphone to make a silly video of themselves or a cute video of their kids that people would actually watch. Not only would people watch it, but they would want to know who would be challenged next. AND? All of the likes. All of them. That makes you feel good, doesn’t it?
This appeal to our collective social media vanity enticed many folks who don’t normal get involved with causes to put up a video. Which brought more awareness to the fundraising aspect (aka the point) of this challenge. More ears and eyes on the cause will lead to more actual awareness about the disease and more funds being raised.
Dump ice on myself when it’s 100 degrees outside? No problem! This challenge paired well with the season in which it was introduced. It’s not really asking that much of people to douse themselves with ice water when it’s hot outside. Which made this a very easy thing for absolutely anyone to do. And it is so hard to get support for a cause when people don’t know much about it, so the easier it is to participate, the better for the cause.
So not everyone loved seeing all of the videos on their Facebook feed. And I get that. Not everyone who participated was donating money. Not everyone was really supporting the cause. But it made it look like they were, which means sick people benefited. But those who rolled eyes at all of the posted videos and chatter around the phenomenon rolled eyes at wheelchairs being given to ALS patients who could no longer walk by themselves and computers being given to ALS patients who could no longer speak for themselves. They rolled eyes at support given to family members who don’t know who else to turn to or what else to do.
Chances are, they didn’t know they were rolling their eyes at any of that. But this is a risk when relying on social media to further any campaign.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
Here’s the thing: being sick sucks. When someone you love is very sick it sucks. When there is not a cure for this sickness, it really sucks. So let’s celebrate this win for ALS: not only did they raise more money than they ever have, they were able to find a way to raise funds that actually worked. Even if it was accidental, this challenge got people involved in an unprecedented way. Though I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, it is clear it played a vital role in propelling this cause.
It’s OK if you didn’t participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in any way, but I encourage you to find a cause to support. Though research towards treatments and cures are part of what funds are used for regardless of the cause, funds usually benefit those fighting the illness as well. Let your support be a celebration of your good health or a memorial to someone you loved who didn’t fare as well.
Do you already have a cause you are passionate about? Feel free to let me know about it in the comments.