Ice Bucket Challenge Takes Customer Engagement to a Whole New Level

Jen Norris    October 14, 2014

Organization: ALS Association
Industry: Not-for-Profit, Association

Every day we take for granted the ability to feed or dress ourselves as well as being able to speak. I knew very little about ALS until my mother-in-law’s health started declining at a rapid rate. For a year, our family went from Doctor to Doctor and it was becoming more evident that ALS was a disease that wasn’t easily diagnosis. It was a process of elimination, once all other diseases were ruled out and a majority of the ALS symptoms were present, a diagnosis was made. In March 2014, my mother-in-law passed away. At this time, there is no test that easily detects or diagnosis ALS. Exposure and funding through movements such as the “Ice Bucket Challenge” proactively helps the fight to find a cure for this fatal disease.

ALS Bucket challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge started off very slowly and wasn’t geared for a specific charity. The premise was to dump a bucket of ice over your head, post and tag it in social media and nominate another person to do the same. If you didn’t dump the water than you had to donate $100.00 to a charity.

“Chris Kennedy, a golfer in Sarasota, Fla., was nominated by a friend to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge, which at the time, had nothing to do with ALS. The campaign was not tied to any specific charity, and participants would select a charity of their choice for donations. Kennedy’s friend had selected a charity that benefits a young child with cancer in the area. Kennedy, passing the challenge along, then selected ALS because a relative is suffering from the disease. Kennedy nominated his wife’s cousin Jeanette Senerchia, whose husband Anthony is the one suffering from ALS. Kennedy posted this video on July 15—what appears to be the first instance in which the Ice Bucket Challenge and ALS were linked.” Alexandra Sifferlin (2014), “Here’s How the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Actually Started”, TIME,  Aug 18th

There is some debate on how the Ice Bucket Challenge picked up so much momentum.   It is felt that the Ice Bucket Challenge was brought into mainstream when pro-golfer Greg Norman challenged Matt Lauer. However, ALS Canada feels that Pete Frates, former Boston College baseball player, who has ALS himself, got the challenge back on track on July 29.

The Ice Bucket Challenge started out as a Fundraising Campaign but picked up mass popularity and became an internet sensation. This fun and innovative challenge brought customer engagement to a whole new level. In 30 days, the ALS Association was able to achieve:

2.4 Million videos uploaded to Facebook
3.7 million videos uploaded to Instagram with the hashtag #ALSicebucketchallenge and #icebucketchallenge
28 Million people uploaded videos, commented on or liked ice bucket related posts

This is the most successful fundraiser in history. From July 29 to Aug 28, the ALS Association raised 100 million dollars from over 3 million donors. As this fundraising campaign was much bigger than anyone could have possibly imagined, there are many benefits that can’t even be measure at this time. However, another success that the ALS Association is experiencing is that they have received the highest rating from Charity Navigator and is Top Ranked on Charity Watch.

As a thank you to all the supports, The ALS Association send out a video.

As the Ice Bucket Challenge became a phenomenon with people all around the world dumping buckets of ice on themselves, it brought exposure to the ALS Association that has been unprecedented. It also brought awareness for people living with ALS and the struggles they face in a normal day.  Then there’s the aspect of the outstanding help that it takes to keep people with ALS living as normal of a life as possible. Recently on The Ellen Show, Ellen spoke with Matt Onyshko, a fire firefighter from Pittsburgh, PA who was diagnosed with ALS 7 years ago and his wife, Jess. Matt and Jess spoke about the support that they receive from their community and fellow firefighters. Matt’s fellow firefighters have been working Matt’s shifts for the last 3 years so that his family can receive a pay cheque. It was an amazing example of support and dedication.

There are many people who have been or started blogging about living with ALS. One Canadian, Richard McBride, who blogs about his journey is an inspiration. He blogs daily, and I commend him for this dedication to share with people his good and bad days. He has positive and powerful statements like “Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I will have recovered from yesterday. Tomorrow I have things to do, things on my agenda, things planned. That will help me get up and go. I don’t know what it will do about the shaking, but I won’t have a lot of time to think about it. I can focus on what I have to do, not how I feel. As Richard McBride says, “Just remember, I am living with ALS, not dying from it.” I think we could all learn a lot from Richard.

Lessons Learned

Social Media can change the scope of a project without even knowing it. The ALS fundraising campaign was a fun and engaging campaign that started out with a small audience and reached epic portions in a short period of time. Through Social Media everyone counts and you can make a difference. 28 Million people made a difference to the ALS Association as well as people diagnosed with ALS and their families. My family personally thanks everyone who participated in the challenge. We hope that with this funding a cure can be found for ALS.

ALS image

In loving memory of Helen Marie Norris.

Web References

BBC News
ALS Association
CTV News
The Wall Street Journal
The Ellen Degeneres Show
ALS Association Facebook Page

Submitted By: Jennifer Norris – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo. To contact the author of this entry please email:

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