You’ve probably seen it at least once in your Facebook News Feed – one of your friends dumping a bucket of water on themselves and asking that you either do the same OR make a gift to the ALS Association.
It’s called the “Ice Bucket Challenge” and from a pure fundraising standpoint, it’s been wildly successful. The campaign kicked off in late July and has, so far, directly led to $2.3 million in fundraising. More over, from July 29 to August 12, the ALS Association says they’ve raised more than $4 million. During the same time last year, the Association raised $1.12 million. So, the #IceBucketChallenge is working both from the fundraising and awareness perspectives.
But the campaign has its fair share of detractors who say the #IceBucketChallenge is classic “slacktivism” (though the initial numbers suggest that’s far from true).
So is the effort worthwhile? Are the 70,000+ donors who participated (so far) going to become long-time supporters of the ALS Association? Or does the #IceBucketChallenge provide an easy out for supporters who would give financially but instead take a video of themselves and post it on Facebook (that’s slacktivism, in case you were wondering).
Well, first off, it’s not really slacktivism if the effort leads to 7-figure fundraising hauls. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say that slacktivism, if it leads to 7-figure fundraising hauls, is far from a bad thing.
But the ALS Association still has the “problem” of retaining all these new donors.
Fortunately, that’s the easy part. Most successful online campaigns include a rush of new donors. To retain those donors and move them up the pipeline, consider the following:
- Deploy a strong, well-resourced content marketing strategy. These new donors gave to you because they saw a post online, right? Then focus your stewardship efforts on that channel. Invest in great video, photography, and infographics. Repeatedly show the impact of giving through mission-related stories posted online. Remind the new donors of how close you are to a cure and/or what it will take to reach that cure. Use digital content delievered via email, social networks, and online ambassadors (the so-called “slacktivists” in this case) to reinforce giving and prime donors for the next ask.
- Thank them profusely. Surprisingly, many organizations still drop the ball when it comes to effectively showing their gratitude for a donor’s gift. After the donor makes a gift, have two emails ready to go – one to thank current donors for their continued support and another to welcome new donors to your cause. In each case, detail the impact of their gift. For new donors, it’s about education and retention. Focus this effort on how their gift is changing the world and helping them understand the crux of your organization’s mission. For repeat donors, it’s an update on campaign progress, a call to action that asks them to share the news of their gift online and via social media, and something that highlights the impact of this specific gift.
- Don’t forget about mail! Especially for your new donors, send them a beautiful new donor package in the mail that thanks them for their support and tells the story of your organization. Then track both their response to mail and digital outreach. If they continue to engage online, but not via mail, think about moving more resources to your online programs to support your donors’ desired form of connectivity to your organization. But first, start with a good mail piece.
From what this author knows about them, the ALS Association is a smart organization that is five steps ahead of the tips in this blog post. Which means the ALS Association is probably prepared to enjoy long relationships with their new donors from the #IceBucketChallenge. And your organization can enjoy the same retention success with online donors, if you follow their gifts with a multi-channel, content-driven engagement and stewardship strategy.
Justin Ware is Director Interactive Communications at BWF_social where he helps clients build world-leading online fundraising programs.
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