Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Ice Bucket Challenge A Cool Idea – But

Posted by Scott On October 9th


So, let’s be honest. How many of you participated in or watched someone do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge this summer? Oh, quite the show of hands.

Well, that comes as no surprise to me. You’d have to have been living under a rock not to know about it. The Ice Bucket Challenge was EVERYWHERE! Not only was it covered by every major news organization in the country and every local news outlet, but YouTube was flooded with people flooding their heads with the cubed liquid.

Some celebrities even tried to make the challenge their own. Forget ice water. Charlie Sheen, for example, put $10,000 in a bucket and dumped it on his head. Matt Damon did it with – well – let’s just say the water came from the bathroom area. But, I’m sure it was clean.

You might be curious about the final numbers.

I did some research on-line and this is what I discovered. According to the International Business Times, approximately $115 million was raised during the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. According to, that represents an increase of donations of 3,500% when compared for the same time period a year ago. In short, it was extremely successful.

Watching hundreds of thousands of celebrities and normal citizens in the United States and beyond – pour ice and ice cold water over their heads as they participated in the Challenge was – well – refreshing. It’s wonderful that an organization researching to find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease did so well in such a relatively short period of time.

But, here’s the problem.

During the Challenge I did find one thing very curious – the absence of the ALS group. They remained in the shadows the entire time and just allowed the dollars to rain in. It seemed to me they did not want to get in the way of a good thing. It might have interfered with the dynamic. Believe me when I say this is highly unusual for such a high-profile charity, but strategically brilliant.


The other thing I found curious was the vague explanation as to where all those millions of dollars in donations would actually be spent. Those who participated and those who paid to have others participate really had no idea where their money was going – except in the ALS coffers.

Gimmicks are great. But in this instance, some felt the gimmick left too many unanswered questions. After all, the monies raised were a windfall – and I would image – the total, totally unexpected.

Donors appreciate specific information. They want to know exactly where the money they are donating is going. This is one of the reasons during a fundraising event I’m constantly reminding guests about the “cause.”
This is especially true when I host a Fund-A-Need event or segment during the gala. That’s when you have a very specific goal, such as purchasing new vehicles to deliver meals to the elderly, and all funds raised go directly to that need.

So letting guests know exactly where their donations will be utilized is key to a successful fundraising event. What typically doesn’t work, in sustainable way, are gimmicks and I advise every Event Chair I talk with to avoid them at all costs.
For the record, I salute the National ALS organization and all those who participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge. $115 million is one heck of a sum.

But regional and local charities should avoid such publicity-driven stunts and focus on their specific mission in a serious, but fun manner. Your guests will be much more likely to return the next year and participate and donate again – unlike the hundreds of thousands that participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to see if Charlie Sheen has another $10,000 he can pour on MY head.

1 Response

  1. Mary Robertson Says:

    Great blog!

    Posted on October 17th, 2014 at 7:49 am

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