It’s a new day in fundraising, now that we have all seen the astonishing success of the #IceBucketChallenge phenomenon.Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 8.22.06 AM

I, for one, am scratching my head in incredulity as I watch the fundraising totals and new donors stream into the ALS organization.

This morning, August 29, ALS is reporting 2.1 million new donors and $94 million raised!

Whew. And how absolutely wonderful!

Prediction: Fundraising will never be the same again.


Well, an emerging new fundraising tool – social media – has now demonstrated that it can raise big – I mean huge – money.

The ALS Challenge is a fun, even silly, “gimmicky” social media meme that started up last spring, slowly built momentum, attracted the participation of some key people, and then suddenly exploded all over the internet.

Thanks to this unexpected, enormous impact of the campaign, research for ALS will be well funded for some years to come. Hurray!

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge chart

The Chronicle of Philanthropy is charting daily totals for the IceBucketChallenge:

My bad: I used to poo-poo social media as a fundraising tool.

Lots of us big money, major gift types have always looked at social media as a stepchild fundraising strategy.

Our opinion was this: Social media is nice, and it may be important. But it’s really for spreading awareness, NOT raising money.

We thought:  Sure, Facebook is great for spreading the word and generating new friends for your cause. But we don’t think it works as a serious fundraising tool.

Well, was I sure wrong!

The #IceBucketChallenge has conclusively changed all that.

It shows us that social media can potentially be a goldmine to the right organizations.

It won’t be easy to make it happen for YOUR organization, but the possibility is there. (Here’s my guide on how to knock it off.) 

We’ve got a “disruptive innovation” on our hands, friends.

We are witnessing in real time an excellent example of disruptive innovation:

Disruptive innovation, a term of art coined by Clayton Christensen, describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.”

I”m not so sure about the last part of that sentence!

Better get with it: goofy works well in fundraising today.

Better get with it: goofy works well in fundraising today.

Prediction: Social media will now take its place with other time-tested strategies of major gifts, capital campaigns, direct mail, personal asks, and email appeals.

  • It’s time to shed all remnants of worn-out convictions about fundraising and the internet.
  • It’s time to think and dream much bigger, about what is possible.
  • It’s time to open up to new ideas about marketing and communications. (Listen, listen to the younger people and empower them!)

How will our world be different now? Exactly how is this going to change our work over the next weeks and months?

Prediction: Fundraisers will be inundated with requests to produce events like the ALS Challenge.

Are you already getting pressure to create your own copycat social media sensation?  (read what communications guru Kivi Leroux Miller thinks here.)

I predict that staffers will be asked over and over why they can’t pull this off. You need to be prepared.

Donors will respond to something that you may think is cheesy. Thx to

Donors will respond to something that you may think is cheesy. Thx to

Here’s your chance to educate your leaders on HOW social media works and what it takes to be successful. 

Prediction: Surprise, delight and goofiness will become more important and accepted as bona-fide strategies.

Being goofy, quirky, and just simply fun is almost a requirement for social media success. 

It also is a very effective tactic for direct mail and email fundraising. 

The Ice Bucket Challenge has so much going for it but a large part of its broad appeal is just its pure goofiness.

Say what you will – it works!

Prediction: Budgets for social media are going to increase.

Because creating campaigns like the ALS Challenge is tricky.

No one can guarantee that something will go viral. But now many people are doing to take its potential seriously.

Bottom Line:

We now have to take social media seriously, folks. If you haven’t already, it’s time to figure out exactly what that means for you and your cause.

What are YOUR own predictions for the long term results of this phenomenon?