ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
The Ice Bucket Challenge will face its own challenges.

Is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a monster success? Yes, and maybe. If you use the Internet, you’ve seen the Ice Bucket Challenge. Participants record themselves pouring ice water over their heads, donate to an ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) charity, and pass it on by challenging others publicly, by name.

On its face, the challenge is a huge success in terms of engagement and short-term fundraising, as Emily Alford relates over at ClickZ. In less than a month, the ALS Association increased fundraising 10-fold over last year during the same time period.

It’s not hard to understand why. The challenge is everywhere. It’s fun. It’s fresh. It’s on your social media, your email inbox, and on TV news. The amount of money donated so far is simply put, staggering.

But there could be a serious drawback to the, perhaps first (or at least biggest) decentralized viral fundraising drive. While the Ice Bucket Challenge is totally individual-driven and doesn’t require direction from some central source, it also doesn’t seem to have the attributes we normally see in campaigns with staying power.

Challenges ahead

The Ice Bucket Challenge is built around the challenge, not the problem its being used to solve. The challenge itself makes only brief, if any, reference to ALS. Participants may learn more about ALS and current research if they read up on it while donating, but where is the emotional buy-in?

Such sudden success will need aggressive, relevant remarketing campaigns for first-time donors—ones that focus donors on ALS itself. Long-term projects like scientific research require long-term, steady funds more than short mega-bursts of cash. That means a plan to retain and cultivate as many first-time donors as possible.

What it means is stewardship, and a marketing strategy to make it happen.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is brilliant. But for the sake of ALS victims, fundraising should not dry up next year. Expect to read much more about remarketing and branding strategies for ALS research when the Ice Bucket Challenge runs out of steam.