Led by Boston City Councillor, Bostonians take on the ALS Ice
Bucket Challenge (Photo Credit: Elise Amendola, AP)

Unless you’ve been living on a remote island with no Internet access, you’ve heard all about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and its astonishing success. In fact, it’s likely that you or someone you know has subjected themselves to the frosty shower and/or given to the cause.

The premise of the Ice Bucket Challenge is simple: dump ice water over your head and nominate three people to either take the Challenge or give $100 in support of ALS research. It has been so successful that as of August 29th, the phenomenon raised over $100 million for ALS. We’re well aware of the steadily rising dollars the challenge has solicited as we’re processing donations for the ALS Society of Canada, totaling over $11 million so far. The amount we’ve processed alone is about 4 times the amount ($2.8 million) that the ALS Association raised during the same period last year!

I’m sure you’re thinking, “okay, I get it. It worked. Now what?” In the wake of this campaign, nonprofits from here to Kalamazoo are scrambling to create their own version of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Copycats are actively searching, brainstorming, and poring over ways to emulate its success, which will undoubtedly weaken the potency. Rather than plan an all too similar campaign (i.e. do this for this cause and post a video), nonprofit and business leaders should learn what made it successful and how to apply it to their own campaigns.

This got us thinking, “how can the Challenge’s core characteristics be applied to corporate giving programs?” Its ability to elicit active participation and buzz can easily be applied to increase employee engagement and general excitement about your corporate philanthropy initiatives. While the Challenge cannot be completely copied, check out the key attributes that make it a smashing success:

Create a compelling yet simple message.

Its simplicity is one of the many reasons contributing to the Challenge’s success. Giving your employees an enticing yet simple call-to-action will encourage them to take part.

There are three key components to a compelling message: the why, the how, and the what. According to Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why,” organizations should communicate their mission from the inside out, rather than outside in, to be truly effective. In other words, your employees must be inspired by the why of your workplace giving campaigns to actively participate. Further, Sinek argues that beginning with the root purpose, the why, resonates with the limbic brain. This is the part of the brain that controls our motivation and emotional behavior. As you can imagine, if your message ever-so-gently tugs on your employees’ heart strings, they are more likely to feel the motivation to participate in your company’s giving campaign.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge primarily appealed to the emotional need of social acceptance since participants had to be nominated by a friend to partake in the chilling fun. No one enjoys being on the outside looking in so nomination had a sense of social validation. Additionally, the ALS cause emotionally connects with participants furthering their desire to participate. Talk about a double whammy!

A little friendly competition never hurt anyone…

Ignite the flame that is inherent in most people, the competitive spirit. Your version of the Ice Bucket Challenge can span across business units, departments, teams, even geographic locations! Imagine if your New York based office challenged the production facility in Missouri to take part in your campaign. Enable your employees to challenge one another to participate in a larger company initiative. This makes the challenge fun and creates a sense of unity among employees. Imagine this: your Marketing department challenging Operations to pie one another in the face. For every employee pied, your company can pledge to give to a featured cause or nonprofit.

“Without a sense of urgency, desire loses it value.” – Jim Rohn

The Challenge’s impending deadline makes it easy for people to just go for it. There simply isn’t enough time to over-think participating or not. Setting a deadline will alert your employees sooner rather than later to act and can increase your participation rate. Creating the perception of urgency in your message can be as easy as choosing the perfect combination of words. Phrases like ” act now,” and “hurry to” can subconsciously influence employees to spring into action. A specific time frame or deadline is an excellent way to get employees’ attention and move them to act on your message.

Make it fun and easy!

Labor intense activities like biking, walking, and running events need a major time commitment, planning, and sponsorships. Keep your campaign short, sweet and to the point. Employees are more likely to join in the activity if it is easily and quickly done while still having fun.

Encourage participants to share.

The digital narcissism brought on by the Internet’s constant connectivity feeds perfectly into the Challenge. We can easily record dunking ourselves and promote it to our social networks. The added bonus – the dunk wasn’t for any old reason, it’s in support of doing something good. The easier it is for employees to show the world their contributions to a cause, the more likely your campaign will take off.

It is only when we learn the lessons of the Challenge’s success that we can begin to apply them to our campaigns to achieve similar results. As one of the most effective cause marketing endeavors we’ve seen yet, it’s worth the time to look at the core reasons why it was effective. Luckily there are some CSR providers that can help support such engaging campaigns.

Find out how we can support your workplace giving campaign!

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