News and analysis
August 20, 2014

Everybody's Talking About the Ice-Bucket Challenge

The ice-bucket challenge, which is raising big sums for the ALS Association, has been many things to many people: viral sensation, philanthropic case study, ego-driven frivolity, even an excuse to pillory Justin Bieber, who took the challenge but reportedly left out the ice.

With tens of millions raised to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and an estimated 5 million gallons of water dumped, the challenge has become an unavoidable media talking point during the August doldrums.

Here is a round-up the coverage:

Nonprofit consultant Beth Kanter tells NPR’s "Morning Edition" that the challenge may have taken off in part because it’s a welcome antidote to sad news coming from Iraq, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Ms. Kanter added on her blog that circumstances may make it hard for other nonprofits to replicate the success of the challenge.

Los Angeles Times sports writer Bill Dwyre threw "some cold water" on the challenge by highlighting the disconnect between joyful online videos and an insidious disease. His colleague Michael Hiltzik worried that the challenge will divert money from worthy causes that touch more people.

Then there’s the backlash to the backlash: Forbes writer Matthew Herper took on the "contrarians" with three-reasons "the ice-bucket challenge is awesome," including that it encourages people to "donate to charity in general."

The Wall Street Journal looks at other nonprofits trying to ride the ice-bucket wave, including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the benefactor of a "Doubtfire Face for Suicide Prevention" campaign that asks people to re-enact a scene from the Robin Williams movie "Mrs. Doubtfire."

Send an e-mail to Avi Wolfman-Arent.