Ice Bucket: some very sore losers?

Friday, 29th August 2014 at 13:21 UTC Leave a comment

I have not, as yet, taken the Ice Bucket challenge. I say “as yet” because, subject to my forthcoming travels, I’m happy to give it a go (48 hours notice, please!). Meanwhile, there’s a rather predictable patter of grumbling amidst some surprising reimagining of the idea. Meme-driven fundraising has truly come of age.

OK, so not every ice bucket has been as cold as, y’know, a standard definition ice bucket. I mean, surely an ice bucket is most made of ice with a bit of melt water in the bottom, right? Not everyone seems to be reacting to cold water, as opposed to tap water, which is rarely cold unless you live in a part of the world where pipes burst in winter. And not every single person has actually donated. This is not actually defrauding anyone of anything. No ALS or MND charity can or will attempt to pursue violators of intellectual property. For starters, they didn’t even invent the ice bucket challenge – that was a cancer charity over two years ago.

Lets start with a link posted from one of several pages I follow belonging to a major development charity. It was also posted by at least one employee with whom I’m connected. The article was basically a complaint that donation from Ice Buckets didn’t match their ideal model of loyal and regular donor. What I found sad about this was that the said charity, rather than come out with its hands up and say ‘yeah, we got beat fair and square’, or perhaps better still, found its own way to subvert the challenge (i.e. further develop the meme), instead just took a lazy swipe for a group of hardened supporters to feel smug about.

Just because you didn’t run the most powerful fundraiser of the year, by reach or funds raised, doesn’t let you off the hook for next year. You just go back and figure out what you can learn from it and talk with your fundraising staff. If you can’t figure out how to do something similar in future for your own cause, even within a more confined circle, you need to hire more innovative fundraisers. Not everyone hits the $100million jackpot, and that’s OK.

We’ve also seen people berating the effectiveness of the American ALS charity that has benefited most. Figures for how much money gets used on ‘useful stuff’ vary wildly, based on what you think is valid. But that’s the thing that’s interesting: we’ve had rubble bucket challenges, sea water and toilet water challenges, the list will continue to grow. And that’s great. Not all money is going to the one charity – this is good. To myself, the problems are the dead-end videos that seek to shut the whole thing down, as if some intellectual argument should make everyone feel ashamed and go home with their heads hung low. [Snopes have posted a rebuttal of the charity data doing the rounds.]

I’m guessing I’ve not picked up a nomination for a mix of reasons. At least one friend got nominated but is too ill to take part. Friends of mine who have done the challenge had people they needed to return ‘favours’ to who weren’t myself. Friends of mine who have been nominated didn’t do the challenge because they worried other mutual friends would ridicule them. Our mutual friends didn’t do the challenge because they would be missing the opportunity to critique something in society and further build their left-wing credentials. Like myself, friends didn’t get nominated because, like myself, they inhabit a left-wing echo chamber.

What we’re seeing is a meme in pretty much its purest form – not the ‘internet meme’ we hear so much about, which is usually a doctored image. You give someone an idea, they do their own thing with it, and then other people imitate it, but ultimately, it changes a little at a time. Someone creates a meme by getting a friend to dunk them in the river, some people improvise with lakes or seas, some go for convenience with indoor pools or even replacing dunking with dripping. I’m describing baptism, by the way, not the aforementioned ice buckets. In fact, baptism would have been instantly recognisable in a culture that already had purity washing. Sure, some people miss the message, and turn up for the photos and the cake. Some people make big prescriptions about the precise wording, some will go for extremes, like New Year Baptisms at Scarborough or pilgrimages to be baptised in the Jordan, and maybe they somehow miss the point in one form or another.

Finally, I have a prediction to make. If either Pope Francis or Archbishop Justin take up a nomination, they’ll nominate the other. How would that be for church unity?


Entry filed under: Charities, Culture, Social Media.

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