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How Social Media "Challenges" Are Putting the Fun in Fundraising

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Are you looking for ways to support and spread the word about a cause? Here are some challenges that can inspire you and help you start a new challenge. Fundraising can be a blast if you get creative with it, and pairing fundraisers with memorable and fun activities brings attention to worthy causes. We want to highlight some successful challenges from the past and inspire you to invent new challenges for the organizations you care about!

The Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge came about in 2014 to raise awareness for ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. To participate, the person was challenged by someone they knew, and the challenged person could either donate to the cause or dump a bucket of ice water on themselves and post it to social media. Its popularity rose and it became a global fad in the summer of 2014.

The Ice Bucket Challenge existed before it was connected to ALS, but the cause matched with the challenge because the feeling of numbness that comes from the ice water is comparable with the muscle stiffness experienced by people with ALS.

Overall, the challenge raised $115 million for the ALS Association and $220 million worldwide, making it one of the most successful fundraising campaigns in history.

The Book Bucket Challenge

Started in India in the wake of the Ice Bucket Challenge, this challenge avoids water waste and sheds light on the issue of illiteracy. It began in 2014 with the One Library Per Village, a non-governmental organization in Kerala, India, working toward digital literacy in villages. It's a simple challenge: List 10 books that have inspired you on your social media and then challenge friends to do the same.

This challenge highlights the importance of reading and spreading awareness that illiteracy is still a problem in other parts of the globe!


Movember started in 2003 to raise

awareness for prostate cancer. It asks its participants to grow a moustache for the entire month of November. It gives men a way to start talking about this important and often-overlooked issue. Men often don't have a reason to talk about these things, but prostate cancer is a relevant concern.

In the same vein, but definitely distinct, No-Shave November encourages people (both men and women) to avoid shaving and give the money they normally spend on hair grooming to the American Cancer Society (source).

The No Makeup Selfie Challenge

This was a movement that was already in action, but an 18-year-old saw an opportunity and made it count. As the movement was in full swing, Fiona Cunningham created a Facebook page called "No Makeup Selfie for Cancer Awareness" and encouraged friends to post selfies and donate. It was an easy campaign to join. This made attention swing quickly to Cancer Research UK, and they raised 1 million pounds in 24 hours. Then the nonprofit tweeted a photo (right) that made its own official statement. By the end, the campaign raised 8 million pounds (almost $11 million) in support of Cancer Research UK. This one young woman started a movement that raised a good sum of money for a worthy cause.

Challenges like these help to raise awareness for good causes while giving people a simple and fun way to engage. Pouring ice water on your head, growing a moustache (or not shaving), and taking a picture without makeup on are small and easy ways to connect to larger causes.

Can you think of a nonprofit challenge that could make an impact? We'd love to hear about it at!

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