The next big (icy) splash.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you’re likely to have heard of/seen the #ALSIceBucketChallenge (Or maybe MND/Macmillan Ice Bucket Challenge).

I wanted to discuss what I/ME/YOU gains from taking part in a charity ‘challenge’ or sponsored event. Maybe you skydived for Children in Need or ran the Race For Life for breast cancer? Maybe you took part in the #nomakeupselfie? Why did you choose to take part?

The bottom line is that all ‘giving’ is good and that is the main thing – but there has to be a reason we decide to take part in what a charity is selling. What is it that these charities/charity advocates do that makes us buy into what they’re selling?

First we should explore how it makes us feel to take part and/or donate to the cause, what’s the overwhelming emotion you feel when you ‘post your challenge’ or make your donation?

I guess I’d feel proud, happy, like I was making a difference, ‘playing my part’ to help. I, like many others would empathise with somebody directly affected by the charities’ cause. Maybe it’s a cause close to your heart – in which case some would feel an emotional responsibility to support the cause. Sometimes it’s a simple case of competition or self-promotion (sorry!) 

The overwhelming factor in all of the above is feeling and emotion. How it makes you and others feel and what emotion it evokes. You’re part of a story, every time you play your part in these campaigns, you are creating your own story – a story that is immeasurably more valuable than the £3 donation that comes off the back off you throwing a bucket of icy water over your head.

The awareness is worth so much more than the act, so no matter what you’re trying to say in your story – you’re saying something – and promoting the charity.

This story and the feeling it creates is exactly what the fundraiser is selling to you.

The sense of community you feel when you post your video/photo/donation to Facebook is what makes you part of a story, a story that everyone else wants to be a part of. If the charity isn’t trying to market this to you, then they’re going to miss out.

It’s similar to how you might feel when you wear charity merchandise; a badge or a wristband maybe. You’re presenting how you feel about that charity, showing your support. You want everybody to know you are an advocate of that cause and that you’re spreading awareness on their behalf. You might have only spent £1 on a pink ribbon, but what about every £1 extra that creates because somebody else sees you wearing it and wants one.

That’s only going to influence a small-ish number of  people (and this again is great, every £1 counts) – and it may spark a conversation, “Oh that’s a pretty badge, who’s that for? Why do you support them?” and start a story that way, but the reach of your message is likely to be limited to the people you see everyday.

Online, the ‘reach potential’ is in the millions when you’re selling not only a cause, but a story.

By inviting women to bare their ‘natural selves’, the #nomakeupselfie fundraiser asked them to reveal a part of themselves that they wouldn’t usually – to promote inner beauty, women all over the world joined the conversation and told their story. Stories of triumph over adversity or honouring a loved one’s memory – evoking feelings in hundreds of people, which turned into thousands of advocates and millions of contributors.

If charities consider how their audience can be part of and/or tell their own story, they all have the potential to make the next big (icy) splash.