Shut Up, Already: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Pt. 2

*This post was prompted by a couple Facebook friends sharing this thought piece, because this it either summed up their thoughts, or they can’t believe that that funding cannibalism needed to be talked about. I won’t be linking to any others, because I don’t want to bring them more attention. Ones concerning the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge are getting outta control. I’m genuinely down for critically analyzing behavior and giving. But at what point are the authors of these pieces offering critical analysis versus just criticizing, so they get a word in, edgewise? The following is a cleaned up Facebook comment. Because my friend’s Facebook is private and this comment is appropriate for my blog, I’m republishing it here.

“Closed mouths don’t get fed.”

Would anyone be writing this (or any other piece) if a smaller organization had created this challenge and was getting the bulk of donations? I highly doubt it. Does it suck that one organization will get prized over others? I don’t know. Take away the value judgements and it is what it is. It just is.

People have limited resources and it’s the same human nature behind moral licensing that will cause them to give to who’s asking for it. Think about it: How often does your average person give to a homeless person that’s not begging? Not nearly as often as to the one that is. Why? Closed mouths don’t get fed.

I’d like to know how many organizations have campaigns going right now. The fact that I (and most people) have to ask means that they’re slipping. We can point to limited resources ’til the cows come home. But at the end of the day, as someone who works with media (and has 1 foot firmly planted in the nonprofit sector), I can confidently say that when marketing is a standard/top priority, you come up with a way to meet that standard. At the end of the day, we’re not hearing about these organizations, because they’re not saying anything people are listening to. The barriers to social media marketing are incredibly low, so it doesn’t take a mammoth marketing budget to make inroads.

I’m struggling with, “If 50% of that $3 million would have been donated anyway”. Using that $3 mil number, if CBS Local Detroit’s article is correct, that $1.8 mil was donated this time last year, then that means the association has still seen a 100% increase. I’m terrible with math, so that may be off… I also struggle with saying we “shouldn’t” do an ostensibly good act, because it’s not shifting culture. Shifting culture is separate IMO, and not necessarily the work of issue-specific organizations for whom that work does not fit the vision.

I can appreciate the sentiment behind the article and those of the folks sharing it, but this is a non-issue to me. If we look at funding cannibalism as an obstacle to be removed—rather than overcome— I think we deny ourselves the opportunity to be truly innovative in our fundraising efforts. Further, it robs us of the capacity to appreciate the good that is being done.