Why the Ice Bucket Challenge just isn't Sustainable
August 11, 2014
This is likely to be my least popular opinion, but before anybody complains about what I'm about to say, I've already made a donation to Team Gleason.
I think that I'm a fairly charitable person. For what I've made in in pay to this point in my life, I try to be generous. I try to donate blood twice a year to the Red Cross, which can help save up to 3 lives per donation (so when you think about it, a literal part of me has helped nearly 36 people, that's pretty neat). I volunteered with Kaboom and with various youth atheletic organizations, have walkied in a Relay for Life with the American Cancer Society, donate to the Canine Comfort Dogs Parish and other organizations which help those impacted by a disaster. Whenever I buy new clothing, I donate at least a bag of clothes I already have to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or Savers. I donate to friends who like to grow goofy mustaches come November. Usually when a friend hits me up for adonation for a fundraiser they're partcipating in, I'll give to it. I've have done all of this without somebody challenging me to do so, simply because I know it's the right thing to do. The list of the contributions I have made throughout my life could go on and on. And that's why I won't take the Ice Bucket Challenge and believe it is not sustainable.
First, it wouldn't be sustainable for you. Look at all of the groups I've just provided links to. Throughout the course of a year, donating to several of those groups is pretty reasonable. But this is a viral trend and like any fad, it'll just be a few weeks before the next trend comes along, and how many of these challenges can you and your wallet physically keep up with? Despite my salary, I have a limited expendable income for the time being and being told to donate $100 every time I don't accept a challenge seems like a lot of money over the course of the next 3 viral trends over the next two months. If I donated to every fundraiser that came across my news feed, I'd be dead broke.
Second, it's not sustainable for organizations. As I said, the Ice Bucket Challenge is clearly a viral campaign. Research organizations rely on a steady base of income to maintain their work efforts. So over the next few months ALS organizations (which by the way, based soley on the information from posts in my news feed, I had no idea where to even go to donate, let alone learned what ALS is from all this "awareness" if ALS is even mentioned at all) will receive a larger than normal amount of donations, and then it'll drop. It's hard to budget long term that way.
As I got into a little bit in the previous paragraph, while it's a very viral trend, the problem I'm seeing is what awareness is this actually raising? Now that I've sat down and watched a few, of those I looked at only one even got into the details of what ALS even is. But still, what does it do? How long does it take? How many people does it affect? What will the fundraising go to? What kind of research is being done? and most importantly, where can I go to donate to research (there's a differnece between research organizations and awareness organizations). Maybe I sound stupid asking those questions, since I know perfectly well what ALS is and google will answer all of this, but the main thing anyone should be saying in their Challenge video are these points, rather than looking like they're anxious to dare their friends to do it. If it's supposed to raise awareness, then it should provide some basic information too.
Perhaps it just needs a new approach. Donating money for every friend you challenge and completes the challenge seems to make more sense. What's the point of dumping water on your head if you're going to donate anyway? To me, being told you have to do this or pay $100 comes off more as punishment than charitable, like I went directly to jail in monopoly. And why is the only option to donate? Why not sign up for a walk or volunteer with a local branch of the ALS Association.
Regardless, the viral initiative has done exactly what it was supposed to do, and maybe that's why overall, it makes me uncomfortable, because in the age of selfies, its seems more about the reward to yourself for doing a good thing and being part of the trend. But it's been effective, with ALS donations somewhere around $1.35 Million in the last 2 weeks since the trend started.
Lastly, in terms of why it's not sustainable I'm going to put on my environmentalist hat. Good lord. Everybody waste water by dumping it on themselves. California has been going through an epic drought where restaurants can't serve water to customers that don't request it and towns are able to count down the days that they'll be able to function on their current water supplies and we're just dumping it on our heads? Seriously? Also, Ice takes a lot of energy to convert from liquid to solid. So unless your ice water bucket was created from rain water collection and frozen using a solar powered freezer (or I dunno, sticking it outside if you unfortunately took this challenge somewhere where it's currently snowing), you're wasting energy and water.
So maybe the global sustainability issues aren't the issue at hand. Overall I'm just saying I wish everyone could be this excited and proud every time they donate to charity or do volunteer work. For once it's a viral trend that's doing something positive and not a bunch of idiots shoving cinnamon in their mouths. But ultimately my challenge to whoever reads this is just to do what you think is right. If you give $5 a year to your local church, great. If you donate $1,000 a month to individual charities, that's great too. There's always writing on your bloody sock and dominating the Yankees to raise awareness too. But do what you believe in, and what you're comfortable with spending, don't do it just because someone dared you to.
And before I forget, here are some organizations you can learn more about ALS from or donate to: