There is no doubt that the Ice Bucket Challenge was a huge success.
In just six weeks, the ALS Association saw $115 million in donations, and today, there is a new drug that shows real promise. But its true magic was the serendipitous nature of the whole thing. The person credited with starting the challenge said that he never imagined it would be anything more than what it was at the time: Someone dumping ice water on their head to encourage donations to a charity of their choosing. The person who eventually selected ALS because a relative was suffering from the disease set the whole thing in motion.
But the success of the challenge often leaves board members and advancement leaders wondering, “How can we do this too? Is it worth trying to recreate the magic of viral success?”
To even try is a risky proposition. If you can get it right and catch another bolt of lightning in a bottle, then great! You’ll do something that only a few charities have been able to accomplish. But if you do it wrong, then it looks and feels manufactured and will ultimately be unsuccessful. And it may even be harmful.
Instead, the more sustainable, practical, or realistic solution is to focus on growing your base of supporters. One of my BWF colleagues likes to say that it’s about converting fans of your organization to constituents of the database and converting constituents of the database to supporters of your mission. It’s getting donors to give, give again, and give more, as a former colleague says.
To focus on the fundamentals:
- Ask your constituents to give. Develop a regular cadence of communications that keep your constituents informed of what is happening with your organization with a clear call to action to make a gift.
- Show them the impact of their gifts. Have a combination of specific and general communications that tell donors how you plan to use their specific gift and about the collective impact of gifts to the organization.
- Thank them for their support. Utilize any number of automation tools that come baked in or can be integrated with your CRM so every donor is thanked immediately and often.
- Share what comes next. Communicate the ways donors can make a difference beyond (i.e., in addition to) making a gift so that they can deepen their relationship with your organization.
You can try to harness the magic of the Ice Bucket Challenge and hope for the one in a million shot or you can develop a plan for the long term and create a solid base of supporters. And with any luck, among your supporters will be someone who can start the next Ice Bucket Challenge for you!
With nearly 40 years of base-level giving experience under our belts, BWF stands ready to help you grow your base of support and empower those who believe in you to find the next viral sensation for the benefit of your organization. Schedule a time to meet with the Annual Giving & Digital Marketing team or contact Geoff Hallett directly to talk about how we can help you.