Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my “view” of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
When I saw it happening, I watched with professional curiosity. I love seeing a nonprofit hit a fundraising campaign out of the park! You’d think that as a guy lost his mom less than a year ago due to ALS, I’d have a more emotional connection. But I didn’t. Crowdfunding isn’t something that really interests me. Crowdfunding is more of a fad than a sustainable fundraising model.
It wasn’t until my teenage son challenged our family that I actually participated. You can see the 15 second video of the four of us doing the #ALSicebucketchallenge here.)
We had fun and raised some money for a cause that we knew rarely had much media or research attention. Win-win all around.
Embarrassed by many nonprofit professionals
But as the groundswell grew, I was embarrassed by the response of so many in our sector. We were like so many crabs. “Crab mentality” is a title given to the experience of watching crabs in a soup pot. One crab reaches the rim, has a chance to get out. But all the other crabs pull that one down and all get cooked.
This jealously is really embarrassing and unprofessional. It was exhibited by:
- all the posts and snarky comments putting down the challenge
- the side comments of the “we’re so much more deserving than they are” variety
- the “fact finding” attempts to disassociate the ice bucket challenge from the ALS Association (some were helpful, many seemed intent on putting down the entire movement)
- the op-eds telling the ALS Association they needed to spend the money right away
- the immense about of nonprofit staff and board time wasted trying to figure out how to copy the ALS ice bucket challenge
This isn’t a zero sum game
In nonprofits, we’re so used to working with less. With lack. With need. Unfortunately, that can so color our view of the world that we stop celebrating with our sister organizations. We see one organization getting money and we freak out that that means there’ll be less for us. That somehow there is a finite pie of money and they’re unjustly getting a bigger slice of dessert than we are.
We should be high-fiving the ALS Association on such an amazing windfall. In reality, anything that helps normal people reconnect with generosity helps us all in fundraising! With people in the United States only giving around 2% of their income to charity, we all have room to grow.
When our board members ask us about how we can do that here, we can be just as excited for them and ask what they think would work. Then share with them that it takes board members willing to stand up and be counted. And more importantly, board members willing to challenge their friends!
We’re all in this together
My view on the ALS ice bucket challenge? As I see it, we’re all in this together. Let’s respond with the courtesy we’d expect if we were the recipients of so much giving. (Would we really want others telling us we couldn’t invest the money into infrastructure?!)
And let’s be adults, rolling up our sleeves knowing that fundraising is a long, disciplined process of being remarkable and inviting others to be remarkable with us.
Believe me, critical negativity and open-hearted positivity both attract. Life is much more enjoyable when you attract positive donors.
The resources for accomplishing your mission are out there. And random successes like the ALS Associations should encourage you not grow weary in doing the good work!