When a cause goes viral, massively so in the case of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, there’s little doubt that millennial enthusiasm is behind much of it. Indeed, here at Bentley, President Gloria Larson rallied millennials and others by dousing a millennial staff member to support the cause.
As the PreparedU research demonstrates, millennials’ use of technology combined with their idealism have transformative potential for America’s organizations, both nonprofit and for-profit. But there are sceptics. Yes, the Ice Bucket Challenge raised a boatload of money for ALS. But will those donors be committed and renew their giving, or is this a one-off narcissistic gambit to fuel the millennial need for self-promotion and self-gratification? Recent media posts tackled these questions and others.
Forbes: Hey Cynics, Hold that Cold Water: Why the Ice Bucket Challenge Worked. Writer Tom Watson acknowledges the critics and even the legitimacy of their arguments. But narcissism is part of public fundraising he argues (visit any big gala fundraiser). In the end, there are five reasons why the challenge should be viewed as a success. Perhaps the best reason is this question from his 16-year old son: “Dad, what is ALS?”
The Wall Street Journal: Throwing a Little Cold Water on the Ice Bucket Challenge. Brian Carney muses about whether undergoing “pretend suffering” to help those who really are suffering is really the best way to engage people in philanthropy and good works.
VICE: Dumping a Bucket of Ice on your Head Does Not Make You a Philanthropist. Arielle Pardes reviews a list of suspect fundraising campaigns and suggests that pretending to care . . . is the crux of “millennial ‘hashtag activism,’ where instead of actually doing something, you can just pretend that you’re doing something by posting things all over your Facebook.”
Brave and Bold Thinking: The Narcissism in “the Ice Bucket Challenge” — and Why it Makes Millennials Care. Millennial blogger Hannah Kahn defends “charity challenges” on the grounds that that’s what it takes to capture millennials’ interest and get them involved. “Let’s be honest here, nobody is interested in seeing someone pull out $100 and give it to a charity,” she observes. Which is probably true for all checks, regardless of how many zeroes are on the end.
Vic Schlitzer is Director of Brand and Content Marketing at Bentley.