Ice Bucket Challenge – What’s The Fundraising Lesson? – Tracy Ebarb

Ice Bucket Challenge

This week, the creators of the Ice Bucket Challenge, Pete Frates and Pat Quinn, (both of whom have ALS) launched a NEW campaign called Challenge Me, which encourages people to challenge themselves to take whatever steps necessary to eradicate Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Their last initiative was meteoric and raised $115 million dollars in only 12 months up from $32,000 the year before!

What’s the fundraising lesson?

Trust me the Ice Bucket Challenge is NOT going to work for you. It was a ONE-OFF (like winning the lottery.) People have attempted to get lighting to strike twice (remember Red Nose Day?) However, there’s an important lesson for those of us in the more traditional (and maybe even BORING) work of nonprofit management and Fundraising?

Consider this…

Pete Frates & Pat Quinn created an opportunity for people to show their generosity, have fun, and maybe the best part — challenge others to be generous too!  I daresay there is not a Nonprofit CEO or Development Director that would not welcome the kind of excitement and fun around giving that has been generated with a little ice cold H2O!


If you’re like me, your first thought when this “ice bucket” thing started was “OK, just another opportunity for folks to NOT GIVE! “After all, if I can stand the cold, I’m exempt from giving, right?” But that’s not how this thing has turned out at all. People WANT to do this! They WANT to be challenged! They WANT someone to capture it on video and post it to social media! AND, get this…THEY WANT to GIVE AWAY THEIR OWN HARD EARNED MONEY AFTER THEY’VE BEEN SHOCKED BY 32 degrees of liquid motivation! And then they WANT to challenge others!

Quick question(s) – did anyone video you writing out your check for your favorite nonprofit this week? Did you or anyone around you ‘yell’ as you put your offering in the basket as it was passed? Have you gone on social media recently and challenged anyone to GIVE!

SImply put, here are the four big ideas we can all take away from Pete & Pat’s unprecedented achievement:

  1. Personal Challenge
  2. Meaningful Involvement
  3. Donor Recognition
  4. Human Generosity

I’m reminded of Brendon Burchard who said, “Challenge is the pathway to engagement and progress in our lives and is critical to your sanity, success, and satisfaction.”

Maybe it’s time to look for bigger buckets, colder water, greater challenges!

Ice Bucket Challenge – What’s The Lesson? was written by Tracy Ebarb, Veteran Fundraiser and the National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives’ International Director. Tracy’s journey in the nonprofit world began in the early 80’s through his service on Church Staff as Youth Minister, Associate Pastor, Church Administrator, Director of Development and Stewardship and Senior Pastor. Tracy joined the renowned consulting firm of Cargill & Associates in 1998, designing and conducting over 60 Capital Stewardship Campaigns raising over $50 million dollars. As an independent Consultant, Tracy has traveled extensively overseas raising funds and working to develop humanitarian projects in the African nations of Sierra Leone, Malawi and Zambia, and the Central American nations of Nicaragua, Haiti and Honduras. As well as consulting and developing Capital Fundraising Campaigns in over 75 churches and nonprofits across the US. Until recently, Tracy has guided the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame as the Director of Business Development. He has recently accepted the position of Senior Counselor at Development Systems International.

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