'Ice Bucket Challenge' defies skeptics, raises $22.9M for ALS research
If donations continue at their current pace, the challenge could help raise an entire year's ALS research budget in the next three weeks.
- The ALS Association's "Ice Bucket Challenge" has helped the organization raise $22.9 million in less than one month. The group raised just $1.9 million during the same three-week period in 2013.
- Here's how the challenge works: People who have been nominated for it via social media must donate a specified amount of money to the ALS Association within 24 hours or have a bucket of ice water poured over their heads. Participants also challenge more individuals, and many have chosen to both donate and get doused in ice water in an effort to raise even more money and awareness.
- Money raised through the challenge will go towards funding ALS treatment research. While there are 5,600 cases of Lou Gehrig's Disease diagnosed in America every year and as many as 30,000 Americans are thought to have the disease at any given time, there is just one, modest FDA-approved ALS treatment on the market.
Celebrities running the gamut from Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus to Bill Gates and Ethel Kennedy have posted videos of themselves participating in the challenge and pledging donations to the ALS Association (President Obama has received at least three high-profile nominations to date). Unsurprisingly, the viral effort has drawn the ire of skeptics who say it is unlikely to make much of a difference.
But the numbers tell a different story. Not only has the ALS Association already surpassed its entire 2013 charitable haul in a mere three weeks thanks to the challenge -- more than 450,000 people have become new donors to the group this year. The expanding donor base and contributions could go a long way. "With more people aware and more people engaged in the fight against ALS, we are poised to work collaboratively with not only other ALS organizations, but also with pharmaceutical companies and academia to expedite new treatments for people impacted by the disease," said ALS Association president Barbara Newhouse in a statement.
As Forbes' Matthew Herper points out, this is real money that could make a tangible difference in drug development. ALS TDI chief Rob Goldstein told Herper that the entire national research budget for ALS, with government funding and charitable donations combined, is about $80 million per year. At the rate donations have been pouring in over the last week -- about $2.7 million per day -- the Ice Bucket Challenge would help clear that threshold in just three more weeks.