Helping People

‘Ice bucket’ opens new doors for fund-raising

dousing for dollars: Chas McKhann gets an ice-water splash during an ice bucket challenge in September at Walla Walla, Wash.
dousing for dollars: Chas McKhann gets an ice-water splash during an ice bucket challenge in September at Walla Walla, Wash. AP

From July to August, it was nearly impossible to log on to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and not scroll over an ALS ice bucket challenge video.

It was also the first time millennials joined a social media campaign that raised so much money — nearly $100 million — to fund a cure for a disease, especially one that is 100 percent fatal.

The ALS Association (ALS is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease)reported receiving $94.3 million in donations from July 29 to Aug. 27from 2.1 million new and current donors.

During the same period in 2013, the organization received $2.7 million.

So what does it mean for the future of fund-raising?

“I did the ice bucket challenge to create awareness and follow the social feed,” said Philippine Naintre, 26. “And to bring it to France.”

Naintre, who lives in Miami, said she and her family and friends in Europe hadn’t heard of the online campaign, so she challenged two people in France and one in Spain.

For someone who had never really donated to charity, Naintre said that without a strong social media presence, she probably wouldn’t have learned about ALS or donated money to find a cure.

“It’s hard to ignore when it’s right in front of you,” she said.

Norm Wedderburn, president and CEO of Make-a-Wish South Florida, said that social media has changed charitable giving.

“Fund-raising has really transitioned from being event-driven to looking at the power of a brand and how you can use that with building relationships,” he said. “It’s allowed us to really share our story and share our Wish stories with a large audience at no cost. (The ice bucket challenge) shows us that there is a great opportunity opportunity out there for something fun that raises money.”

Make-a-Wish South Florida grants between 500 and 530 wishes a year to children with life-threatening medical conditions. The foundation relies mostly on event-driven fund-raising, but Wedderburn said the percentage of money raised over the years has shifted dramatically. He recognizes the power of social media, especially when it comes to reaching a younger demographic.

“It also allowed us to control the message,” he said.

Many local businesses participated in the ALS ice bucket challenge, boosting morale. Wedderburn said that local partnerships are also good business decisions.

“The Hotel InterContinental Miami is one of our strongest partnerships. Employees really love it. Employees feel better about where they work if their work gives back to the community,” he said.

Javier Soto, president of the Miami Foundation, applauded the ice bucket challenge and efforts similar to it, despite criticism.

“I think any time you can raise $100 million for such an important cause in such a small amount of time, I think you should be applauded for that. For us, Give Miami Day is the most similar in that we use social media tools and are reaching perhaps similar demographic markets. For us, it needed to be more sustainable because we intend to do this every single year and we intend to grow it every year,” Soto said.

Give Miami Day is similar to the ice bucket challenge in that it relies on social media to succeed. It’s entering its third year and will take place Nov. 20 with a goal of raising $5 million. The fundraising campaign is a 24-hour online giving day where people can give to the organization of their choice.

“Social media has been a real powerful tool to increase charitable giving and awareness of causes that need support of people in the community. In terms of changing demographics, one of the things we’re trying to do is meet newer, younger philanthropists where they are,” he said. “And where they are is online. So we build digital platforms to reach them and use social media tools to reach them.”

The Miami Foundation promotes and encourages philanthropic giving and sets up funds instead of donors creating private foundations. Over the course of its nearly 50-year history, it’s generated more than $170 million in grants and scholarships and it manages more than $200 million in charitable assets.

Any nonprofit that wants to participate in Give Miami Day can do so by registering with the site, Soto said. Like the ice bucket challenge, it’s reaching young people online.

“We don’t normally get a lot of $25 gifts here except for Give Miami Day,” he said.

Give Miami Day

Give Miami Day will be Nov. 20. The Miami Foundation’s campaign is a 24-hour online drive where people can give to the organization of their choice. Go to www.givemiamiday.org.

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