1 big lesson from the ALS ice bucket challenge

Tell my friends
After my post on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a couple of people pointed out to me that I hadn’t really drawn a conclusion or called out the lesson we should learn. Yep, you got me on that. I love the tribe that hangs around here because you’re always looking to learn what’s next, how to do this work smarter and poking me to be better.

I actually have a big lesson and a little lesson I’m thinking about from the Ice Bucket Challenge.

The little lesson is that there will always be critics and always be people who will sit on the sidelines and tell you what you did wrong (or how they’d have done it better). It is rather amazing how many people jumped into criticize the challenge or pointed out how it wasn’t really helping or how it wasn’t really philanthropy (or stewardship). Even calling it “slacktivism.”

Don’t sweat ‘em. Always listen to those close to you. Listen very carefully to the producers and creatives you trust. But not the critics. Ignore barking dogs. As a wise old guy I worked with used to say: “Dogs only bark at moving cars.” (It was Texas, so that might not connect with everyone). That’s the little lesson.

The big lesson is this: Your supporters need recipes! I credit my buddy Chris Brogan for my use of the word “recipe.” I’d have used “strategy” or “plan” or something else that might make me sound smarter. But Brogan, in his business context, says it’s a recipe; that works for me.

Here’s what you have to learn from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: tell people how they can help you, very specifically. Of course, you’re asking them for their financial support. But then what? Always have another step they can take. That was the genius of the Ice Bucket Challenge. People knew what they were supposed to do. Now it didn’t go well for everyone and not everyone followed instructions. But people knew enough of the recipe to know what to do.

The meme and challenge and video and celebrities and fun were certainly part of the success, but I don’t think it would have been as successful without a clear recipe.

As I write, they’ve raised 13.3 million dollars and more importantly for me added 295,505 new donors. There you go. The power of a clear recipe and good plan (and ice water).

It’s easy to imagine that the lesson should be about creating a meme or a viral concept. No. You can’t create a viral campaign. In fact, the best you can hope for is to create a recipe that’s contagious. Moments like the Ice Bucket Challenge are rarely planned. But you can make sure that everything you do has the follow-up recipe.

You need to be ready to say what you want your donors to do to help you. They won’t or can’t give money as often as you’d like, so equip them with the tools to help in other very specific ways.

What should they say to their friends about their support of your cause or ministry or cause?

Give your supporters examples to follow.

What words or phrases are important?

Tell them where and how to spread the word.

Give them a recipe.

And because it’s just fun, here’s a collection of people who really shouldn’t have taken the challenge . . . it’ll make you smile.

That’s the big lesson for me. What about you? What was your takeaway? What did you learn from this social media event?


Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: memebucket.com and Steve Thomas)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

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