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Finding the next ice bucket

New challenge for charities

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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Price Chopper CEO Jerry Golub, left, and Senior Vice President David Golub, have buckets of ice water dumped on their heads by store managers Lou Walsh, left, Carlos DeSousa, and Wes Holloway as part of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge at the Balltown Road Price Chopper in Niskayuna on August 19.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Price Chopper CEO Jerry Golub, left, and Senior Vice President David Golub, have buckets of ice water dumped on their heads by store managers Lou Walsh, left, Carlos DeSousa, and Wes Holloway as part of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge at the Balltown Road Price Chopper in Niskayuna on August 19.

— As the ice bucket challenge cooled off, people put down their buckets and dove face-first into cakes — and whipped cream, shaving cream and other worthy substitutes before emerging with a “Helllooooo,” mimicking the late Robin Williams.

The idea of re-creating the famous scene from “Mrs. Doubtfire” is to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention in the wake of Williams’ death. Coming on the heels of the immensely successful ice bucket challenge to benefit ALS — it raised a reported $80 million in less than a month, compared to $2.5 million for the same period last year — expect more and more groups to be utilizing social media, already an integral part of messaging, to get the word out in stunt-filled ways.

“It was wildly successful,” Mark Grimm, a communications expert out of Guilderland, said of the ALS challenge. “We will be talking about this in PR classes for decades.”

Now what?

Certainly an offshoot. And another. And another.

“We are all racking our brains to come up with the next big thing,” said Laura Marx, Capital Region New York director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

For more than a half a decade, social media has been a major component in raising awareness and funds for nonprofits.

“After all the social media that surrounded the death of Robin Williams, there was a lot of negative messages, so we wanted to get out a lot positive messages,” said Marx, noting that like the ice bucket challenge, the Mrs. Doubtfire face was started by volunteers. (The anti-suicide campaign has not nearly approached the level of ubiquitousness as the ice bucket challenge.) “There are so many great organizations. I don’t think our cause or organization is any more important. … So I think it’s helpful to come up with creative ways to say ‘We are here, right here in the community.’ ”

Wendy Birch, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness — New York State, located in Albany, said like other organizations, hers has brainstormed over how to gain the public’s attention.

“We saw the success,” she said. “We would love to do something to raise awareness for what we do, . . . something that can capture everyone’s attention and put us in the spotlight, even for a short time.”

And that new marketing idea would be? . . .

“If you have any good ideas let me know,” Birch responded.

Grimm said the copycat effect can work, to a point.

“If it makes money, keep doing it,” he said of viral campaigns such as the ice bucket challenge. “You will see similar kinds of things now.”

He said there was a time when charity walks and golf tournaments, staples of the nonprofit world, were considered new ideas. The difference between those and Internet concepts is virtual memes come and go at a much faster rate.

“You are bombarded with stuff now. There is a shorter shelf life because of the saturation,” he said. “There is so much competition for nonprofits, every one is looking for a new idea. You can come up with a new idea, but they ride that horse as long as they can.”

Until the next thing. Whatever that is.

 
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