Why The #IceBucketChallenge Has Worked So Well

The Ice Bucket Challenge will go down in history as the summer craze of 2014. For those (somehow) unfamiliar with The Ice Bucket Challenge, it’s simple: Donate a small amount of money to als.org (a charitable foundation researching a cure for ALS, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease”) or dump a bucket of ice water over your head within 24 hours of being challenged. If you do not meet the time constraint, you must donate a larger amount.

Everyone from everyday friends to A-list celebrities have been participating in this generous challenge raising over $50 Million for ALS research… and lots of videos of people dumping cold water over their heads.

Why has this social media campaign for ALS research become so successful? There are some three key elements to the execution of this that I believe make the difference! 


It’s worth noting that The Ice Bucket Challenge has evolved from its origin.

Initially, The Ice Bucket Challenge had nothing to do with ALS. It started as a challenge to donate to a charitable organization of the participants’ choosing. Along the way, someone chose als.org, and trend began. It is now often referred to as “The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”. This focus made it easier for participants as it alleviated the extra step of choosing a charity to donate to. (Moreover, als.org is a simple url to remember.)

It’s Personal

These challenges typically end with participants nominating three or more people to participate also. Instead of a blanket challenge to all of Facebook or a cluster of associates, these are personal challenges made to specific people – usually family, friends, and colleagues. Those challenged feel honored to have been nominated and know someone will be waiting for them to complete it.

You Have 24 Hours

Many of these videos end with “You have 24 hours!” to those nominated to do the challenge next. This ticking clock adds a sense of urgency. Without the 24 hour time frame, The Ice Bucket Challenge is just another thing to do on everyone’s summer to-do list.


Of course, the generosity, celebrity, and bandwagon factors play a big role in the  popularity of The Ice Bucket Challenge. However, those are the three key factors that I believe have pushed it over the edge. This challenge is also safe (unlike the ridiculous fire challenge that was going around Facebook previously…), exhilarating, and customizable. My favorite has to be Sir. Patrick Stewart’s, demonstrating he knows how to follow directions!


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