It was the hit charity campaign of last year: pour a bucket of ice-cold water over your head, film it, then nominate friends to do the same – all in the name of giving.
The Ice Bucket Challenge raised hundreds of millions of pounds for the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association in the US and for the Motor Neurone Disease Association in the UK.
But now charities are being warned to avoid spending too much time and money devising what they hope might be next year’s Ice Bucket Challenge and instead concentrate on using social media to raise longer-term awareness for their cause.
Not-for-profits also risk alienating older potential supporters by assuming that only younger people use social media, according to a new report on charities and their digital strategies. Many are also failing to keep up with trends that are seeing more under-25s moving away from Facebook and Twitter into Instagram and Snapchat.
Viral campaigns such as the Ice Bucket Challenge and the #nomakeupselfie helped propel some organisations into the spotlight this year while simultaneously raising awareness and huge sums of money.
In pictures: The famous do the ice bucket challenge
In pictures: The famous do the ice bucket challenge
1/16 Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga managed to keep an admirably straight face as she poured what looked like a solid silver bowl of cold water over herself
2/16 Homer Simpson
Fans were overjoyed when their favourite yellow cartoon character got involved in the campaign to raise money to help those suffering from ALS. As per usual with Homer Simpson, things escalated quickly
3/16 Reece Witherspoon
One of those who have arrived slightly late on the scene, actress Reece Witherspoon looks nervous but resolute as she has a bucket of ice-cold water chucked over her head
4/16 Lily Allen
Lily wore a bikini as she self-administered her bucket of icy water. She thanked Jess Glynne for the nomination, and passed the challenge onto Mark Ronson, Millie Mackintosh and rapper Giggs
5/16 Daisy Lowe
Celebrity ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos seem to be coming in faster than we can watch them - model Daisy Lowe is one of the most recent to get involved. She was nominated by Sun journalist Dan Wooton, and passed it on to radio presenter Nick Grimshaw and Abbey Clancy
6/16 Bill Gates
One of the first to go viral on YouTube, Bill Gates had freezing water tipped over him in a bid to raise millions of dollars to fight the illness ALS
7/16 George W. Bush
It felt like quite an important moment when the former President of the United States accepted nominations from his daughter Jenna Bush Hager, golfing champion Rory McIlroy, Woody Johnson, and Jim Harbaugh. He nominated 'my friend Bill Clinton'
8/16 Jimmy Fallon
In an official letter this week, the ALS Association said: 'Never before have been in a better position to fuel our fight against this disease.'
NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
9/16 Tom Hiddleston
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis affects the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons degenerate and die which makes it increasingly difficult to move muscles
10/16 Rita Ora
There is no known cause of ALS, though there is a proven hereditary factor in some cases
11/16 Taylor Swift
There is also no known cure, though the millions being raised by the ALS association will go towards researching these great unknowns
12/16 Oprah Winfrey
The illness is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, named after the all-time great baseball player from the early 20th Century whose time at the top ended when he was stricken with the illness in 1939
13/16 Mark Zuckerberg
The Facebook founder is unarguably the master of the challenge, who – following his drenching – saunters off
14/16 Justin Bieber
Bieber's first attempt was pretty naff: he didn’t quite get it and decided not to use ice or a bucket to complete the challenge. Obviously, the internet moaned at him and he was brilliantly peer pressured into having another go
15/16 Justin Timberlake
Celebrities have been nominating one another to do the challenge
16/16 Christiano Ronaldo and Marcelo
The challenge is now making its way over to this side of the Atlantic, former Manchester United players Paul Scholes and Gary Neville both doused themselves in cold water for a terminally ill fan
Researchers pointed out: “Most not-for-profits won’t experience a craze like the Ice Bucket Challenge, but it is clear that social media has the power to build a brand, raise awareness and reach new audiences, that can lead to bigger supporter and membership base and greater engagement.”
The Ice Bucket Challenge went viral last summer. Before it existed the MND Association would receive on average £200,000 a week in donations. From 22 to 29 August, it received £2.7m. While some criticised the challenge, Water Aid saw a spike in donations, including £47,000 in one day – 50 per cent higher than it had ever received in a single day before as people took against “wasted” water. Others said it had a huge impact in raising awareness and on funding.
“The Social Media and Not-for-Profits” report found that 92 per cent of charities surveyed used social media “heavily” or “somewhat” to engage with existing supporters, funders and members. Ninety-one per cent were using Twitter, and 86 per cent Facebook, while start-ups such as WhatsApp and Snapchat were used by less than 4 per cent.
The report showed that 81 per cent of marketing teams devote less than 10 per cent of their budget to social media, and more than half spend less than 10 per cent of their time on it, yet 70 per cent believe these should be increased.
While results showed the overwhelmingly positive impact social media had on charities and membership organisations, researchers said there is a misunderstanding of where their audiences are most often found, with the authors finding a preconception that social media is a preserve of the young. One in five even said that there is no social media channel that is important or applicable to the over-65s.
Howard Lake, publisher of consultants UK Fundraising, said: “Older people are such an important part of many organisations’ fundraising – especially when it comes to legacies. [Charities] should start by looking at their own data – have they checked how many of their Facebook supporters are 65 and over?”