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Why I’m not doing the Ice Bucket Challenge

If you’ve managed to avoid all social media, and indeed online media, recently then I congratulate you. If not, your Facebook feed and internet trawling has no doubt been saturated with video of friends and celebs dousing themselves with buckets of water for the ‘ice bucket challenge’. The aim of this is to encourage donations to research for ALS (in the US) and Motor Neurone Disease (in the UK) and to raise awareness of this disease.

There is no doubt that the ice bucket challenge has been a tour de force from a PR point of view, raising millions in donations, and engaging people with the disease. It is easy to see where the campaign’s success lies – it’s engaging and funny, giving everyone a laugh whilst watching friends shriek and dance around. However, I myself would not take part if I were nominated.

More: Top ten charity PR campaigns of all time

Pr behind Ice Bucket Challenge

I’m not being boorish or taking a stance for the sake of it, and I’m sure that I will receive criticism, as indeed several people have already, for not taking part. The word ‘spoilsport’ may come to mind, and others would argue that huge amounts are being raised for this underfunded disease and why would I not want to contribute to any if this. I ask, however, whether someone’s donations to another cause or charity are any less worthwhile? They may not be making a song and dance about it but they are no less worthy or valued, perhaps even more so if they are not merely one off donations. It’s fantastic that so much money has been raised but it is certainly not sustainable, and many other charities will never have nearly as much money raised.

Countless celebs from Victoria Beckham to George Bush have undertaken the ice bucket challenge, and it has become a fantastic opportunity for them to cash in on a bit of free PR. All they have to do it douse themselves in water and they are viewed as charity heroes, delighted to be seen throwing themselves behind a good cause. This is narcissistic, and I am not just talking about celebs. Anyone filming themselves doing the challenge and posting it to their social media is always partly doing so for public approval, an occasion to look charitable whilst essentially posting a video selfie.

The charitable aspect is almost an afterthought, and very few of the videos actually contain any information about the disease or why the money is needed. I dare add that some people taking part in the challenge don’t have any clearer an idea of the disease than they did prior to soaking themselves with a bucket of water.  The US state department has even banned diplomats from taking part in the challenge, as they are not allowed to use their positions for private gain. They are of course welcome to quietly donate to any charity; they are simply not allowed to cash in on it for their reputation.

Aside from everything else, there are severe droughts all over the world and I can only say that throwing a bucket of clear water over yourself is surely a rather tactless thing to do. If you feel strongly for a cause there should be no need to make donating a self-congratulatory, attention–seeking act.

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2 comments

  1. Personally, I fail to see any negativity in this campaign and believe it’s a true social media triumph. The first video I saw gave no detail about the cause or it’s purpose but I immediately searched for more information on ALS. Since then my knowledge and awareness about ALS and Motor Neurone Disease has only grown. Whilst some individuals may be posting videos as a vanity project, surely they are the sort of people that would post this sort of content anyway? At least now it’s for a good cause and contributing to a greater social awareness. For every person that posts a video to get more likes or show off to their friends, there’s another who is donating to charity. The development of the “challenge” has also seen people donate to their own charities. I can put up with a feed full of people throwing buckets of water over their head much more than I can of people posting photos of themselves on a night out or status updates complaining about their daily commute. Here’s a high five to charity harnessing narcissism for the greater good!

  2. Sophie, I have to agree with you. Although my newsfeed is full of egos and ice-buckets, it wasn’t until I saw the news that I realised it was actually for a cause. There was no mention of ALS or any information on how to donate in any of the videos uploaded, which strongly implies that the ‘trend’ is more significant to the public than the cause. Much like the #NoMakeupSelfie and Neknominate, this is peer pressure, plain and simple. If there wasn’t a so-called ’cause’ would you be advocating this? When I refused to do a #NoMakeUpSelfie I was accused of not supporting cancer victims just because I felt uncomfortable with uploading that kind of picture. Is that fair?

    On another note do you know where your money is actually going? According to the charity’s 2013 tax return nearly $2 million goes on management salaries. The CEO alone earns a tidy $339,475 pa. The CEO of Save the Children earns half that amount. So for those who do actually bother to donate, are you really comfortable with this?

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