The ice bucket challenge

The ice bucket challenge has been a sensation. It has increased giving to ALS and raised awareness for charitable giving. But, let’s not stop there.

I have a love/hate relationship with the ice bucket challenge. It is without a doubt one of the best charity awareness campaigns I have ever seen. It makes charitable giving fun and humiliates a load of celebrities to boot!

ALS is also a horrible, horrible thing to have to live with. Below is a video from somebody’s whose life has been impacted by ALS and I would encourage you to watch it if you have not already. Now go and give.

But here is the thing, people stop at the challenge. That is not the fault of the campaign, it’s the result of human nature. We see it as a bit of a laugh, the latest shiny thing. But it doesn’t change our long term behaviour. It doesn’t get us to think about what we are giving to and why. That is why I was dreading getting called out.

Do I take part or do I challenge it and look like a miserable sod? Fortunately it is not a decision I have to make because Dan James has done it for me. In his post, which ends with him calling me out, he writes:

Something about the ice bucket challenge irks me. There is a gimmickry about it that takes away from the charity. The important thing seems to have become watching people pour ice water on their heads. The donations, the charity, the giving, has become a side effect (with indisputable financial results) of a viral sensation.

He goes on to propose an alternative:

I propose a new challenge. The “Give and Tell Challenge”. You donate to a cause, or causes, that have meaning to you and you say why. You then challenge 3 other people to do the same thing.

This is an idea I am happy to get behind. But I want to take it a bit further if I may. I want to highlight a charity I give to regularly.

Because that is what I believe we need — regular giving. Regular giving allows charities to plan. It also earns them more income than one off gifts.

But its also easier for the giver too. Giving $100 to a charity may well feel painful. It is an unexpected cost and it may well come at the wrong time. But regular giving becomes invisible. It is like paying your water bill. Its just another expense that goes out.

Here is another suggestion, give a percentage of your income. That way when you get a pay rise your giving will go up too. I give 10% of mine and have done so since my first pay packet. This means I am giving a larger amount now than when I first started work and yet don’t notice it, because I have always given that 10%.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not criticising one off gifts and would encourage you to give to ALS. Charities will die without them. I am just saying, if you can do more I would encourage you to think about it.

But that is quite enough lecturing. Here is the charity I want to highlight.

My highlighted charity

Its name is the Bethesda Project. You won’t find some fancy website because they don’t have one. You will never have heard of them and they will never have asked you for a donation.

They are based in Tamilnadu which lies in the heart of rural southern India. It is an area that suffers from poverty, poor education and has largely missed out on the modernisation seen in the major cities of India.

The Bethesda Project brings hope to the lives of almost 600 children by providing quality education in an area where education is often neglected.

This is particularly beneficial for young girls who can miss out on formal education. Take for example the story of Rachel, who after attending the Gnana Deepam Matriculation School was able to go on and study as a doctor in China. This is all the more remarkable, as she had never previously left the area, let alone the country!

But, the Bethesda project doesn’t just provide quality education. It gives a home for over 30 children who have been orphaned and destitute. In addition the project provides residential facilities for children in isolated communities, beyond the catchment area of the bus service the school offers.

All this is done through word of mouth support. It’s incredible. They should have a website, they should enable online giving. Instead they survive on relationships and people determined to support them. That is a charity I can get behind.

I have picked a charity that you cannot give to online for a reason. I don’t want to take away from the ALS campaign. If you have been challenged to give regularly and don’t know where to give, setup a direct debit to give to ASL (also known as Motor Neurone in the UK)

Nominating others

And so it becomes my turn to nominate three people. I nominate them to either highlight a charity they give regularly to or give a one off donation and tell us about the charity.

My nominees are:

Good luck guys. You have 24 hours to respond. At least this gets you out of the ice bucket!