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Millennials Warm Up to Ice Bucket Challenge


Millennials Warm Up to Ice Bucket Challenge


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. 

Learn more about Bentley’s PreparedU Project, which examines challenges facing millennial workers, the companies that employ them and the colleges and universities that prepare them.


We seem to be a society of sheep where everyone has this burning desire to be a part of "group think" and "group do". Individualism and honest CHARITY seem like a thing of the past...

You are spot on! Welcome to the 'hive' mind!

I only heard about this "Ice Bucket Challenge" about a week ago and about the only thing I can say about it is it's NOT something I would do. Perhaps I just don't know the point of it, but it looks painful, and nobody is going to talk me into doing something painful to myself. Those who will seem a little more like they are "following the crowd" or in other words being obedient, mindless sheep for someone else's pleasure. Someone who wants to smile and laugh as you'd cause pain to yourself. But, hey, do it if you want to hurt yourselves. If I ever get the challenge you can be ABSOLUTELY SURE I will kindly decline it.

Most of these kids don't even donate to the charity. My own niece said "You are supposed to donate or get the ice dumped on you". They don't get that the purpose is to send money and not to be showing off on Facebook.

This is no different than walking or 5K/10K runs for a cause. Why not expend the energy helping seniors who need help, soup kitchens, or just plain volunteering your time and energy being productive? Chuck

Let's assume they are indeed narcissists. Let's assume that they are not charitable by nature. Let's assume it doesn't have a long term effect. Heck, let's just assume it's stupid. So what? Why not use the millenials' preferred method of narcissism for a good cause, no matter how short lived? Next time, maybe we improve upon the method. But for now, why not? Really, why not ?????

Who cares why the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral? It's one step in the direction of making kindness fashionable again. In the late 60's and early 1970's fashion ruled the world just like it does today. Being nice was trendy. The problem is that all trends die out and eventually need to be reborn. Well now's the time. If we have to play to people's egos to get them to find out how nice it feels to be nice, so be it.

That's just it--they don't FEEL anything except the giggly-ness of being yet again, in front of the camera--so it is all about them and whatever they feel is it completely egocentric and not about anyone suffering. They need to go to a hospital for a day or more and SEE people in pain and FEEL something FOR SOMEONE ELSE. Their ego is self-circling and does not have a break in it for someone else. I think it is ridiculous to even coddle these people for what "efforts" they put into whatever it is they are doing that brings attention to THEM for the moment. There is no reason their parents and parents going forward can't take a minute to think about someone besides themselves--since when did it become o.k. to just continually excuse complete selfishness and pretend it is anything else?

i have done the polar bear plunge so to me it seems silly

Just kidding about the subject. But the point of the ice bucket is that numbness is a symptom of ALS. The ice bucket for a brief second provides the recipient for a very brief second the painful sensation that an ALS patient suffers every second of every day. Also, maybe in some alternate world, every one will be truly altruistic and give of themselves completely to all causes, every day. So if it takes group think and narcissism, then so be it. The charity raised 2-3M last year in the same prior. This year, 115M. As others have pointed out, it has raised awareness. Maybe there is a child out there, perhaps the 16 year old boy mentioned in the article, or perhaps a 6 year old somewhere else in the world, who because of that awareness and a research grant, eventually finds the cure for ALS. And God forbid, maybe that person, will show off on Facebook and tell the world of their discovery.

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August 4, 2015

Bentley University is named one of the country’s best institutions for undergraduate education in the just-published 2016 edition of The Princeton Review Annual college guide, “The Best 380 Colleges,” (Random House/Princeton Review).