C’mon, you’re like me. With all the hoopla surrounding the ice bucket challenge for ALS you were just waiting for someone to challenge you. Also like me you were probably concerned that so much time has passed and you weren’t challenged! Why not? Nobody thinks of me? I’m not someone who is considered for this challenge, when everyone else and their brother is? What’s wrong with my friends? What’s wrong with me?
I have to admit that when the challenge first arose it was unique, and seemed like a great idea…and it was both of those. I also was just “challenged”, so I’m warm and fuzzy that someone finally thought of me. But as the cause has become a fad, my thinking has undergone a change as well.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a great marketing idea. It highlighted a truly terrible disease and was quite effective at raising money for the cause. Congrats to whoever was responsible for the idea and for initiating one of the most effective fund raising efforts ever! I have nothing against the ALS Association or raising money to help find a cure for one of the more tragic diseases the can befall someone. I have real sympathy for anyone affected by ALS, either directly or via a friend or loved one. But, I’m not going to participate in the challenge.
You should read Mike Rowe’s Facebook post “Not Throwing Cold Water on a Cause.” He explains his rationale for not participating quite well. I get his point and agree with it, and I want to piggyback off what he wrote with some additional thoughts.
Rowe points out that charitable giving is a rather limited pool. While the total given any year is not static, you can’t expect givers to suddenly double their annual giving. So money given to cause A is, in all likelihood, going to negatively affect charitable giving to cause B, or cause C. He writes that “According to experts, 50% to 70% of all the money collected as a result of the Ice Bucket Challenge will directly impact future contributions to other charities in an equal and opposite way.” (the italics are mine) So if the ALS Association collects $80 million, other charities working to raise needed funds could see their collective results diminished by roughly $40 to $56 million.
That’s a serious cash flow problem, especially so if you consider the diseases that have the highest mortality rates. I know, every death is tragic, whether it be a death from ALS or from cancer, but when considering the grand scheme of diseases, my head says to put the most money into the research that will benefit the most people. According to statistics from the CDC, heart disease claimed just short of 600,000 lives in 2011; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease claimed 143,000; diabetes another 74,000, breast cancer 41,000. ALS was responsible for just short of 7,000 deaths.
Again, I’m not saying one death is more important than another, but I am saying that money for research to combat serious diseases should be allocated relative to the potential for saving lives.
Shame on the American Heart Association for not thinking of an ice bucket challenge of their own!
So, I’m not taking part in the challenge, knowing that I will most likely insult my secretary, Lisa, who nominated me. I depend on her daily so I hope she doesn’t hold a grudge. While serving a good cause, public challenges are not the way to seek donations. People donate because they believe in a cause and want to do their part to help out. I donate to a lot of causes, ALS is not one of them, and like what was written in Rowe’s post, if I donate to ALS then I most likely would not donate to some other one. I also am not one to get caught up in fads, and the ice bucket challenge has become just that. Like me, you’re insulted if not challenged…it’s being challenged that’s important, not the cause. That’s not me.
So be thoughtful about your giving, know why you’re giving to a specific cause, and know what your giving really means in the big picture. And if you don’t give to ALS, give to a different charity, just be sure to give.
And that’s my perspective.