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ALS IceBucket & Market Development –

ALS Ice Bucket

During my session of the Labor Rising classes, I devote a good deal of time to discussing the power of social media. While it may seem, on the surface, a way to share pictures of cats and be annoyed by people you haven’t seen in ten years, it is actually one of the most powerful tools available to us. It provides a platform to raise awareness of issues and bring about true change. In this day and age of SuperPACs and Citizens United, it is no surprise that we are losing ground politically. We simply do not have the financial resources to be able to compete with multi-national corporations when it comes to campaign contributions. Fortunately, we have something that can be even more effective in the political world than money – we have our membership.

Recently, we had the campaign manager for a Lt. Governor candidate visit our class. I asked her a simple question – “if I could give you a reasonable monetary contribution or I could bring you one hundred members all spreading the same message, which would be more valuable to you?” Her response was no surprise to me. She said that the members spreading the message would be far more valuable to her. You may scoff, but using the power of social media, those hundred members can raise awareness of an issue and turn one hundred into one thousand. Ten thousand. One million. And more.

The time is right for this post, as this very concept has made national news lately from a very unlikely source – The ALS Association. This non-profit was almost unheard of at this time last year. Even a few months ago, most people were unaware of ALS. Thanks to social media and an inventive challenge, everything has changed. Unless you live under a rock (or don’t have Facebook), then you have seen someone’s Ice Bucket Challenge video. The idea is simple. After being called out by someone you know, you have 24 hours to either dump a bucket of ice water over your head or donate $100 to the ALS Association. To say the idea caught on would be a massive understatement. The Ice Bucket challenge has gone viral — it is the most effective social media campaign I have ever seen.

Having fun on social media is one thing, but the goal was really to bring about awareness and raise money for ALS research. The effectiveness of this social media campaign can be seen in the fundraising figures. In the two month period between July 29th and August 29th last year, the ALS Association raised a respectable $2.8 Million in donations. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with those figures, they were dwarfed by the money raised in the same two months this year — $100.9 Million. Yes – you read that correctly. They raised $100 Million in two months. And they contribute that increase to the awareness brought around by people dumping buckets of ice-water over their heads. (Or, in my case, many buckets. Take a look.

While this is an extreme example of the potential that exists within social media, there is no question that it has changed the way the world works. The best part for us is that we already have a foundation from which to work – our membership. Building upon that foundation to bring our message to the masses, the possibilities to effect true political change are nearly limitless.

Dan Woodman

Founder, Leading Labor

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