What can the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Teach Us About Member & Donor Engagement?

February 5, 2015 Christin B.

I have to give props and a tip of the hat to the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. What a great way to have something go viral (thank goodness it was done in the summer and not winter as that would NOT have worked).

What can that campaign teach us about member and donor engagement? The ice bucket challenge took something private, support of curing the disease ALS, and made it public. It’s one thing to give to a charity but it’s not something we always publicize. The ALS Ice Bucket challenge made things very public because we saw people dumping ice on their head AND giving to ALS. On top of that you had to challenge specific people to do the same.

This was the ultimate public challenge! This is one of the key elements of how things go viral. There is a great book called “Contagious” that uses data to show the various elements regarding how things spread. One of the concepts discussed is the shift in making something go from private to public (private → public).

Translation for your YMCA . . exercising and donating are usually private things. How can you make it private→public?

Some exercise apps help make private→public by giving people the opportunity to “share” their work out. This can be great but people don’t always want to publicize their activity on their own social media. Think of how you can create opportunity or space to make this public. This can be through social media or even in your own facility.

Donor recognition

Some YMCAs post banners as a “thank you” for people or organizations that give a certain amount. This is a great way to thank organizations and individuals but what if there was a way to do this for everyone who donates? Recently, I visited a Y where construction paper was put up in ginger bread like figures with the names of members who donated. This was located on a wall in the Y under a “thank you” banner. Some members actually decorated their own if they desired. This is a great example of private→public.

Could we also thank donors on our YMCA’s Facebook or Twitter account? Ask a donor how they would like to be recognized. They can opt out of social media if they like but if not, use that as a public space to thank people.

Member recognition

Think about how people can post their exercise publicly in your Y. Can you put a star next to someone’s name? Can you post a “member of the month” in a public place for people to see? This is great for both the person exercising and for people walking through seeing this public display of congratulations!

Recognize volunteers in the same way. Think of how you can post thank you pieces for volunteers via social media or in the building. It’s a great way to thank people and let them know about the volunteer opportunities.

Always ask first about recognition. We all know people who would rather not be recognized in public. It’s important to honor that. However, most will welcome the recognition.

Engage your staff

Your staff – full time and part time- are a wonderful resource for ideas (especially those with a millennial mindset). They can help you find fun ways to make private→public. It might not be as viral as the Ice Bucket Challenge but it can be a sustaining piece of your member and donor engagement strategy.

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