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Daredevil Donations

Malky Lowinger

Move over, traditional yeshivah dinner. Here there’s no “builder of the year” or “chesed couple” award, no speeches to sit through, or journal gold pages. Instead, you can go rappelling down a skyscraper, or even dump a bucket of freezing water over your head while supporting your favorite institution.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Years from now, the annals of history will probably record the summer of 2014 as the golden era of the Ice Bucket Challenge. It was fleeting, funky, and unconventional, but it reframed the art of giving. During the month of August alone, a whopping 41 million dollars were raised on behalf of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) as a result of the Challenge and the ALS Association recruited over 740,000 new donors to its cause. “We have never seen anything like this in the history of the disease. We couldn’t be more thrilled with the level of compassion, generosity, and sense of humor that people are exhibiting,” said ALS Association CEO Barbara Newhouse. How did the bizarre concept of posting a video of dousing oneself in ice water and challenging friends to do the same — together with a contribution to the ALS Association — become the genius marketing concept of our era? Why would tens of thousands of people respond to the Challenge? And what prompted celebrities, elected officials, mega-millionaires, an ex-president of the United States, and even Lipa Schmeltzer to get in on the act? Barbara and her colleagues are as baffled as anyone by the runaway success of this fundraising campaign that took on a life of its own. It was a phenomenon that ran its course and can probably never quite be duplicated. But marketing experts and fundraisers in our community have learned one thing from that ice water splash. Lots of potential donors are young and restless. They are also savvy and smart. They want to give, they are willing to part with their money for a good cause. They just want to have fun at the same time.

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