Why the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is Actually Good

Quick blog post today. Let’s blame it on my continued recovery from taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge at the behest of my brother Andrew. What a jerk.

Here was the result:

It’s time to beat ALS. If I can do a small part by dumping chilly water over my head and chipping in a few dollars to the ALS Association, I’ll do it.

The goals of the challenge are two-fold: raise awareness (Check. Do you really know anyone right now who hasn’t heard of the challenge?) and raise money for ALS care and research (check times $31.5 million).

Opportunists, aka Lame-O’s, are criticizing the challenge and the movement. Let’s not help them further by linking to them, but you know who I am talking about. Thankfully, their petty complaints have been drowned out by good will, kindness and generosity. Are some of the participants slacktivists? Sure. But ultimately, this is all a good thing.

My hope is that the Ice Bucket Challenge, which has been championed largely by us pesky Millennials, starts something of a revolution in charitable giving. I particularly like one of the themes of the challenge: public shaming (in a good-humored social media way) of those who do not answer the call. You get 24 hours: donate or ice yourself, or better yet, do both. We’re all doing this together.

The possibility seems to be that if we band together, we can cure a disease. And we should continue to think this way. Our generation can move mountains and fix the ills of the often-diseased Earth we’ve inherited. But we need to work together.

I encourage you to watch this TED Talk from Dan Pallotta (as douchey as that sentence sounds). Many people see charities the wrong way, wanting them to be efficient in getting their donations directly to the cause and to not “waste” money on overhead.

Pallotta says we are dead wrong with this attitude. One point he makes deserves to be quoted in full:

“We’ve all been taught that charities should spend as little as possible on overhead things like fundraising under the theory that, well, the less money you spend on fundraising, the more money there is available for the cause. Well, that’s true if it’s a depressing world in which this pie cannot be made any bigger. But if it’s a logical world in which investment in fundraising actually raises more funds and makes the pie bigger, then we have it precisely backwards, and we should be investing more money, not less, in fundraising, because fundraising is the one thing that has the potential to multiply the amount of money available for the cause that we care about so deeply.”

(Emphasis added.)

Our generation can be one of change in charity with the goal of accomplishing huge feats like curing diseases, ending hunger in the United States and eliminating malaria. I encourage you to create a list of the big charities out there doing great work. Even if you, like me, don’t make a lot of money, create the list anyway. Then, whatever you can give, do it. Have your favored charities and support them. Encourage friends to do the same. Come up with your own challenge. I’ll do the same.

Let’s disrupt the charity.

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