The ALS (USA) ice buck­et’ challenge

Exhibited by
Beth Thoren
February 24, 2015
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

It is unlikely that the ice bucket challenge would have achieved so much without the Internet and social media. It might not ever have existed. It is an 'anti-commitment' appeal and all the charity had to do was hold out a virtual bucket. Could they turn some of the thousands who took on a, rather unpleasant, challenge into committed donors. Should they try? What do you think?

Please note that this article has been updated following a recent breakthrough in ALS research. Please see below.

Summary / objectives

The challenge started in the USA to raise awareness and money for ALS in the USA (motor neurone disease in the UK). It rapidly spread to other parts of the world. The ice bucket challenge entailed standing or sitting while someone poured a big container of iced water over his or her head. If participants fail to meet the challenge – and who could blame them – then they have to make a donation to an ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) charity. The challenge is filmed and once the 'victims' have recovered from the icy shock, they nominate someone else to take the challenge. Nominees have 24 hours to complete their challenge or make a donation.


Chris Kennedy, a golfer from Sarasota in Florida, was nominated by a friend to participate in an ice bucket challenge similar to the one screened live on-air by the programme Golf Channel Morning. Kennedy was the first to be associated with the challenge with ALS because he has a relative suffering from the disease and his video was posted on 15 July. Soon his friends were doing it and it went viral when former professional baseball player Pete Frates took part.

Creator / originator

ALS in USA made it big.

Special characteristics

  • Link to ALS (it's what ALS feels like) – it was based in the charity's cause.
  • It was a pyramid 'challenge', each person challenged three others.
  • It was anti-commitment, participants only made a one-off donation.
  • Celebrities picked it up.
  • It focuses on everyone's favourite subject: themselves.

Influence / impact

If this is anything to go by, you need about 800,000 video or content shares a month to raise $100m and one million Twitter mentions a week.


Over $100m raised

Why do you think this exhibit merits a place on SOFII?:

Biggest idea and fundraiser in 2014 by a mile.


On July 25, 2016, the ALS Association announced that, thanks in part to donations from the Ice Bucket Challenge, the University of Massachusetts Medical School has identified a third gene that is a cause for the disease. Project MinE, a global gene sequencing effort to identify genetic drivers of ALS, received $1 million from the
challenge, allowing them to broaden the scope of their research to include new sources in new parts of the world. Having identified the link between the gene, named NEK1, and ALS has paved the way for a new targeted gene for therapy development as well as focused drug development.

This campaign was featured at SOFII's 2014 'I Wish I'd Thought of That' event.