Ice Buckets, Fun Runs & Charities

The ongoing Ice-Bucket Challenge, initiated to raise funds for ALS research, has been remarkably successful and one wonders if similar marketing programs will be initiated by other charities.  Of course, various walks, fun runs and biking events have long been used to raise awareness and money for a wide range of nonprofit organizations.

While most of these organizations are legitimate and provide services and research vital to the welfare of natural ecosystems and human society, I find that some of their marketing tactics rely more on the ego-centric nature of participants than on public interest in the programs that they support.  The Ice Bucket Challenge, while dramatically increasing funds for important ALS research, has become a self-promotion opportunity for celebrities, companies and social organizations while not significantly increasing discussion of the research itself.  Fund-raising athletic events, soliciting donations based on mileage covered by the participant, focus more on the achievement of the "athletes" than on the underlying charity and its programs.

More importantly, these public marketing campaigns provide no information on the effectiveness and financial health of the non-profit organizations that benefit from the funds.  Such data is provided to consumers by Charity Navigator, a non-profit service itself, that rates U.S. charities based on the percentage of donations that go directly toward research or charitable activity, the proportion of funds devoted to administrative and marketing costs and on the effectiveness and transparency of their system.  Charities receive an overall rating of 1 to 4 (least to most effective) and I encourage donors to visit this website before directing funds to non-profits, however convincing their ads and marketing tools may be; while I am not a fan of the Ice Bucket Challenge, I was pleased to learn that the ALS Association has a current rating of 4.