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How Libraries Can Benefit from the Ice Bucket Challenge

bucket challenge


By now, you’ve no doubt seen the Ice Bucket Challenge, the viral sensation that has raised more than $40 million in donations for the ALS Association. The challenge has spread rapidly in social media, and many nonprofit marketers are analyzing its success for clues to run their next giving campaign.

Although the ALS Association’s marketing team didn’t create the challenge, the organization has benefited greatly. Beyond the increase in donations, it has gained more than 739,000 new donors. Since many taking the challenge likely have donated through the ALSA website – which requires an email address – the organization undoubtedly has expanded its email list.

Tens of thousands of user-generated videos, news clips and articles also have helped boost awareness about the disease. The challenge has been widely covered by media outlets as diverse as the New York Times, CNN, the Golf Channel, Just Jared, and Vanity Fair.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was successful because it was both social and personal. It was simple enough for anyone to participate, and everyone was encouraged to give it a try once tagged by family and friends.

Public library marketers can borrow a few ideas from the challenge for their own marketing and advocacy efforts. Replicating the Ice Bucket Challenge exactly may not work, given that it’s now so closely associated with ALS. However, there are plenty of other ideas that could work for public libraries while bringing local communities together for a cause. Some ideas include:

  • A library-sponsored scavenger hunt with a video-sharing component.
  • Local residents reading tongue-twisting passages from a book.
  • Asking library visitors to share a video on what the library means to them.

Of course, the magic of the Ice Bucket Challenge is in the craziness of the act. Who would take such a silly dare? If you want to recreate the success, then you’ll need an equally silly – but totally unexpected – idea. Just make sure it’s harmless and fun.

Here are three more reasons the Ice Bucket Challenge works. Don’t forget to include them in your plans.

  • Personalize. Ask participants to challenge friends and family by naming them in their video and tagging them. This ensured the Ice Bucket Challenge reached an ever-growing audience.
  • Simplify. Minimize the number of steps in your challenge, and keep the rules simple.
  • Aim for funny. Humor sells on the Internet. The more laughable the moment, the more likely people are to share with others.