“Glance through your now ice-water-doused Facebook feed, and it may occur to you that the ice-bucket challenge — in which people dump ice water on their heads and film it to raise awareness about ALS — is among the most successful charity campaigns in recent history. But is it actually a short-sighted effort?” Catey Hill, Market Watch, August 22, 2014

A simple concept, a campaign to raise awareness, to take action, and to raise money for a worthy cause has assumed a viral intensity.

Listen to this interview for more insights to the success and dimensions of this summer craze.

Can participation in this challenge qualify as a CAS activity?

There are “feel good” elements for the participants in this campaign.

  • There’s a friendly, invitational challenge and competition. By accepting this ‘dare’ and then inviting another person to do the same thing, we can witness and experience a few seconds of anticipation and bravado, and then chilling pain. Taking action for someone else can include the elements of fun, entertainment, and narcissism.
  • We can watch and compare ourselves to other people ritually do the very same thing. In front of a camera the person who’s challenged or nominated on social media will inevitably utter a prayer-like acknowledgement of their ‘challenger’. Then the ‘challengee’ will invite family, friends and foes alike to perform the very same ritual within 24 hours or donate to the ASL website.

Despite the campaign’s success there are some drawbacks.

It is a clever marketing boost at getting one-off donations, but not at creating a real connection with a cause, the recipients of the donation, or the partners in this service action?

Are the opportunities to attract long-term donations and real sustainable support missing?

Is there real awareness of the partner in service?

If you were to ask the participants who took this challenge and made their splash, would they all know what ALS is?

Ken Berger is CEO of Charity Navigator – an organization that rates charities for consumers.

He claims, “It’s like a flash in the ice bucket — a mile wide and an inch deep. We can literally witness an explosion of donations that will very quickly peter out.”

And this diminishing of donations and lethargy in interest will likely occur very quickly, perhaps within a few more weeks.

There are already indications of weariness and backlash among about the campaign. It has the signs of an “it’s all about me” appeal.

Are more worthy causes of our attention and our donations of time and money?

And there are some bureaucracies like the US State Department forbid some of their employees (viz. US diplomats) from participation fearing that might be an abuse of influence and position.

As Catey Hill elaborates, “perhaps the more important, and potentially troubling, question is this: what’s next?”

Ken Berger says that the key hurdle is how the ALS Association manages the massive influx of donations, something that many organizations in the past, when faced with similar situations (say when donations pour in following a natural disaster) have struggled to do.

“Do they have the capacity and wisdom to step up and manage this massive influx in an accountable, transparent and effective manner,” he says. “Often, the answer is no.”

Finally, to respond to the above mentioned question –  is this CAS?

If the challenge is “a mundane, repetitive activity, a service without real responsibility or learning benefit” (CAS Guide, 2008, page 13), then the answer is no – this not an appropriate CAS activity.