Ice bucket challenge could change way non-profits raise money

Appleton, De Pere, and Manitowoc mayors took part in the ice bucket challenge for ALS Aug. 16, 2014. (WLUK/Gabrielle Mays)

GREEN BAY – It seems that everyone is getting involved in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge viral social media campaign. And some media experts say it could change the way non-profits raise money.

Since the ALS Association started tracking the campaign – which involves people dumping ice water on their head and/or donating $100 to the ALS Association – it says 1.1 million new donors have donated more than $53 million.

If you type ‘ALS Ice Bucket challenge’ into YouTube, more than 600,000 video results pop up. Among the thousands are your run-of-the-water-mill videos, with the expected results: a cold, ice-water bath.

Thousands have posted videos of water being dumped on their heads – from football players like the Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, to grandsons and their grandmothers.

"It's the most hopeful I've felt since I was diagnosed," said Linn White, who is a grandmother, too. She also has ALS.

I profiled the former social studies teacher two years ago. She was diagnosed with the degenerative neuro-muscular disease in 2008.

"I can still speak and eat and I breathe pretty well," she said during our interview in August 2008.

Today, she needs the help of a ventilator to breathe – and she's completely lost the ability to move her feet.

ALS – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease – has no cure, no real treatment and is fatal.

For White, seeing people's videos and how much the ALS Association has raised from people making a splash, makes her happy.

"I feel like people are caring more, they're focusing again, and it's a fun, happy thing,” she said of the videos. “It's a positive thing that people are doing."

But not everyone is jumping on the ice-cold bandwagon.

The hashtag #NoIceBucketChallenge has plenty of support on Twitter, with some asking for people to swap a drenching with a donation instead of spreading it on social media, what media studies experts say lends to its viral nature.

"You get the message directly from friends and acquaintances, but also, yeah, it kind of appeal to the same side of people that wants to post a selfie," said St. Norbert College professor Mark Glantz.

Glantz says he's not meaning to disparage the campaign, but notes that it taps into people's exhibitionistic tendencies on social media. A viral video trend he says could change how non-profits view fundraising campaigns.

"That kind of publicity has some actual monetary value – in other words, ALS – the organization – would actually have to pay to get that many eyes on an ALS message and now people are just doing it for them."

Including some of our own here at FOX 11, like Phil DeCastro and Pauleen Le, Gabrielle Mays, and Jude Wilbers, who challenged me to take part.

White says she and some friends plan to take up the challenge themselves in the next few weeks.