Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Thursday 21 August 2014

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

It’s a thing.

OK then.

Lou Gehrig's Wiki page
In the UK, we don’t know what ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease is, because that’s what the American’s call it. We tend to lump it in with other forms and use the blanket term Motor Neurone Disease. That’s what we’re talking about. Although, I believe that in the UK the money is actually going to Macmillan, the cancer charity. 

People, lots and lots of people are taking buckets of ice or iced water and throwing it over themselves on camera. They donate ten bucks to the ALS charity and challenge someone else to take the challenge. Anyone who’s challenged and doesn’t accept is required to pay 100 bucks to the charity. (Gosh! I've used the word 'challenge' a lot. I hope you'll forgive the horrid writing.)

It’s not a bad way to raise cash. Fourteen million bucks, so far, in pretty short order.

This thing has taken off. I know that clips of very cold, very wet people are all over my FaceBook page.

It’s right about now that you’re beginning to wonder why I’m writing this blog, isn’t it? You all know that I’m more than capable of a thorough-going snark, but what could I possibly have to snark about, right?

Do I care that people are dousing themselves in freezing water? Well, not especially, although I’ll get back to that.

Do I care that people are humiliating themselves? Nope. That’s entirely their choice.

Do I even care that people are essentially bullying and blackmailing each other into performing this not terribly pleasant feat? Well, I suppose anyone can ignore the challenge. Who’s going to check that any payment has been made? Everyone lies, don’t they? Even if no one wants to be seen as a coward. Take a look at Anna Wintour’s clip. She managed to take the challenge and still walk away relatively unscathed, and earn a truck-load of brownie points into the bargain.

Do I care that self-promoting people are performing acts to camera without any concern for or knowledge of the charity they are supporting? Well... This is where things get a little trickier. People show-off in the social media all the time. As someone who uses FaceBook and Twitter to promote work, I actually fall into this bracket too, so I’d be a pretty dodgy pot if I chose to call out the kettles, and I’m not going to do that. Besides, a show-off is a show-off, and he’ll always find something to fill our news-feeds with. If a charity can benefit, where’s the harm in that?

On the other hand, I am someone who does choose which charities I want to support and then I support them regularly and longterm. I think this is important. Most charities have ongoing commitments and need to be able to budget for them. They need to run like business with some expectation of income, and they need regular donations from reliable donors.

Do all charities struggle to raise money for their causes? Of course they do. Bringing in funds is an endless task and it’s bloody hard work. This is another good reason why it’s key that donors are well-informed. I care about the charities I support, and that’s why I continue to support them. No extra time, energy and, by extension money is spent persuading me to donate again, because I am an automatic repeat donor. The vast majority of the bucket brigade do not know what ALS is or care about it more than they care about other things. They will remember shooting their clip and getting cold and wet, but they will not remember to set up a repeat donation to the charity. The next opportunity they get, they will sit in a bath of beans or eat snot or shoot hoops with grapefruits, or any one of dozens of things to make a mini-movie, and some other charity will benefit in the short term.

I always say of children that they don’t need quality time, they need all of a parent's time. When I say that what I mean is that they don’t need a couple of hours every so often of intense smothering; they need a constant parental, background presence. I think charities feel the same way about money.

The ALS charity is no doubt thrilled to have this glut of money now, but they’re left in a bit of a quandary. The people dealing with all that cash have got to be sitting scratching their heads. What longterm projects and strategies can they safely embark on? What can they forecast for their finances over the coming years with this huge blip on their financial graph? Can they expect a fall in regular donations when this fad ends? What does fourteen million bucks buy in terms of medical research? Facilities? Care? In the long term.

A lot of people are having a lot of fun, and while they’re doing it they’re donating a lot of money, and I’m going to stick my neck out and say that’s probably OK in a World where there’s an awful lot of selfishness and misery.

If you took the bucket challenge, I’d quite like to urge you to think about the things you care about and set up a small standing order in favour of a charity that matters to you. The cost of a chip supper or a pie and a pint once a month makes a difference to all of them, and will keep making a very real difference in a very real way for a very, very long time.

Not for nothing, if everyone who took this challenge set up a standing order for ten bucks a month, charities would be better off to the tune of millions a month, more-or-less indefinitely, and that would include the ALS charity. That’s got to be better, right? 

As to people dousing themselves in good, clean drinking water, particularly if it’s water that’s spent time in a freezer? I said I’d come back to that, didn’t I?

Around 800million people worldwide don't have access to clean water and 2.5billion don't have access to adequate sanitation. It's probably just as well that they don’t have access to YouTube either, because they might be astonished to watch people wasting gallons of drinking water by pouring it over themselves. Freezing cold water or ice comes at a price, too, and we all worry about our carbon footprints. According to my internet sources (and they might be wrong, I’m no scientist), it takes one kilowatt hour to freeze 1.8 gallons of water. Go figure.

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