In an exclusive interview, Tanner Hockensmith, a spokesman for the ALS Association, says that his nonprofit organization is already brainstorming concepts to build on the phenomenal global success of its ice bucket challenge.
Since late July, when the viral fundraising campaigning began, Hockensmith reports that ALS chapters nationally have raised about $110 million from more than three million donors on behalf of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. That amount is nearly twice the organization’s total budget for all of 2013, Hockensmith says.
Those participating in the ice bucket challenge have included hundreds of celebrities, including U.S. presidents, athletes, rock stars, actors, talk show hosts, and journalists.
Hockensmith, who is executive director of the ALS Association Texas Chapter, describes the ice bucket challenge as a “game changer” for the ALS Association, which was established in 1985, and uses the donations received to fund research, patient services and advocacy. In the wake of the ice bucket challenge, “we definitely could not go back to where we’ve been,” Hockensmith explains. “This has been a pivotal point for us and I think it would be ill-advised for future planning not to look at this and say, ‘You know, we have to honor and look at how we can grow the awareness that’s happened.’”
[To hear extended excerpts from the exclusive interview with Hockensmith, click here.]
Hockensmith says the ALS Association is holding discussions now to build a perennial campaign of awareness. “In the future, we will have something during the month of August that kind of pays homage or brings awareness and raises funds for people with ALS,” he promises. The exact nature of the annual campaigns, he adds, is still in the discussion stage.
What made the ALS ice bucket challenge so exceptional in the charity world is that ALS – unlike cancer, heart disease and diabetes – impacts only a relatively small number of people annually. About 20,000 to 30,000 people are stricken with ALS at any time, Hockensmith says.
As such, many other nonprofits, especially those with similarly small constituent numbers, have begun to deconstruct the success of the ice bucket challenge to discover what lessons they can apply to their own organizations. Likewise, many small business owners and entrepreneurs have come to view the ice bucket challenge as a Master Course in “buzz snatching,” a term that describes low-cost marketing campaigns that go viral and command the public’s attention.
Hockensmith offers observations and advice to others seeking the secret ingredients that made the ice bucket challenge such a buzz snatching role model.
· “I have a very easy equation for fundraising: awareness=money. When people are aware of your cause, and they’re aware of your story, they donate.”
· Having an effective communications plan and structure in place before any campaign goes viral is crucial. When the grassroots ice bucket wave hit, ALS was prepared to steward it.
· Shape your campaign around a “story” that is easy to understand and that people can relate to.
· Let the campaign grow naturally, at its own pace.
“One of the things I think we did very well is not try to push and push and push people to do it, but allow it to grow organically when it was happening.”
· Campaigns that allow people to feel connected to one another and to a greater cause will work best.
“I can instantly be connected to Jimmy Fallon because we did the same thing. We stood. We poured ice water on our head, and I also donated, and so it became a situation to where people could instantly become connected with one another, and stayed with each other for a cause.”
Although the pace of ice bucket challenge donations have slowed since their August peak, Hockensmith notes that contributions are accepted year round at www.alsa.org. Moreover, he encourages those who have been inspired by the ice bucket challenge to connect with their local ALS chapter.
According to the association’s website, ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. In addition to Yankee Lou Gehrig, other well-known individuals who have died of ALS include Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Senator Jacob Javits, David Niven, photographer Eddie Adams, and former U.S. Vice President Henry A. Wallace.
The audio interview with Tanner Hockensmith was conducted in association with Monday Morning Radio, a free weekly iTunes podcast hosted by yeahstub.com contributor Dean Rotbart. Monday Morning Radio features some of the country’s most-innovative small business owners and experts. Launched in June 2012 in association with the nonprofit Wizard Academy, Monday Morning Radio now reaches more than 50,000 small business owners, entrepreneurs and experts each week.