The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, cont’d

August 27, 2014

I didn’t tell people about my trepidations regarding the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge piece, mostly. Now, I’m a worrier—if you’re an attorney, you’re probably a worrier, as you get tasked with taking on OPP aka Other People’s Problems—but this subject worried me lots. Somewhere, somehow, I picked up this “negative/downer” thing, and tackling a popular Internet phenomenon left me nervous.

With one exception, I received only positive feedback. Lots of readers and several comments, many of which came via email, phone, or direct contact. (There’s a lesson here, too, albeit not the main lesson of this post. Don’t assume everyone agrees with the flow, for you may be surprised that there are many, many “go along, get alongs,” people not quite as willing as yours truly to spout off, but not necessarily in agreement with what appears to be the main current.)

And the negative comment? No disagreement with my words, but “it felt like you were down” was the message. So, really someone expressing concern for me, more than anything else. (BTW, I was not down at all. Just concerned about this “wave” mentality.)

The negative comment came with some discussion, too. I heard comments about how rationality will never be a part of giving, along with anecdotal evidence to support that claim. And that is the point of the post!

As it happens, I engaged with three nonprofit leaders on Tuesday, in addition to the negative commenter, who happens to be a very capable fund raiser. What came through, loud and clear, were three things:

  1. People give for many reason that don’t matter in relation to the cause. They give because of the asker, because they don’t want the effort to fail, because someone else gave and they don’t want to be left out or noticed by their absence, etc.
  2. Not everyone is ready for the pitch that depends on a rational basis, arguments supported by data and science, etc. However, grant-makers think about these issues plenty, and to the extent by which they don’t they will say they do! (Sometimes “I really like what you’re up to” suffices, even if you get a more long-winded explanation for the grant.)
  3. Everyone wants to feel good when they’ve written a check!

So here’s the big message for my friends who ask people for money, with a preliminary qualifier:  You all are the pros, who really know what you’re doing, and do it day in and day out.

And the message? Organizations that matter and are producing measurable, positive outcomes in our community need to focus on their knitting, for sure, but they also need to look for the wave that is an Ice Bucket Challenge, or some other “wow” thing. If the Ice Bucket Challenge means anything, it means X, Y, or Z organization can get touched with something akin to fairy dust and have a magical moment.

Now, we all know no one can plan for magic. Making a difference involves hard work, long hours, personal engagement, etc. But, there always needs to be room to dream, and that means giving your dreamers room to try—and maybe fail—while you stay focused on the hard work.

Clearly, in making space for dreamers, you need to be cautious. There’s no room for the guy—and he’ll probably be a guy, tbt—who is all talk and no action. But, and this is where my professional friends’ expertise, skill, and judgment fit into the equation, if you have someone with notions and a plan, and it’s someone who knows how to make things happen, it may be a “wave” moment, a moment when Carpe Diem comes to mind! Ride that wave!!!

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