I have mixed feelings about the Ice Bucket Challenge. It feels weird to capitalize it like it's an official thing, but now that everyone and their mother, almost literally, has been posting videos of themselves getting cold water dumped on their heads in the name of ALS awareness, I guess it's earned its proper-nounage.
It has its obvious benefits, the most impactful being a huge surge in donations to the ALS Association, which I can truly appreciate. My great-grandfather, Ben, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis about a decade after Lou Gehrig did. My family has seen its devastating effects first-hand.
I can't be annoyed over money going to a good cause. I'm not even mad that some of the people making videos are in it, at least partially, for their own publicity. (As of writing this, the Ice Bucket Challenge video made by my friend Evan, a Tom Cruise impersonator, actually comes up higher in the results than the real Tom Cruise's Ice Bucket Challenge video when you search "Tom Cruise Ice Bucket" on YouTube. That's just impressive.)
I am annoyed, however, about several gaping holes in the idea.
As s.e. already addressed, there's a lack of concern, or at least a lack of awareness, about wasting water. Furthermore, there's a lack of awareness about ALS itself. The other day, one of the top hashtags trending on Twitter was #ALCIceBucketChallenge because teen heartthrob (are they still called that?) Shawn Mendes tweeted his Ice Bucket Challenge video with the wrong abbreviation, and it was liked and retweeted thousands of times. His video, like so many, doesn't even mention ALS. They're doing it because everyone else is doing it.
Then there are those who are making videos because they'd rather get wet than donate the arbitrary $100 -- or worse, because they feel guilty that they can't donate. I'm very uncomfortable with people publicly daring their friends, whose financial situations they may not know, to donate money they may not have or else do something physically uncomfortable on camera. Those "nominated" always have the unstated choice to do neither, but the pressure to do the perceived right thing grows with the challenge's popularity.
My biggest misgiving about the Ice Bucket Challenge, however, is the way other charities' donations may dip as a direct result of its success.
"Because people on average are limited in how much they’re willing to donate to good causes, if someone donates $100 to the ALS Association, he or she will likely donate less to other charities," writes William MacAskill, the founder of 80,000 Hours, an organization that gathers research on ethical careers. This could be the result of a psychological phenomenon called moral licensing, "the idea that doing one good action leads one to compensate by doing fewer good actions in the future."
If you do have $100 to donate, may I suggest spreading the wealth? Give $10 to the ALS Association -- no matter how much money they've raised, they need and deserve additional funds -- and then give $10 each to nine other health-related charities that need support but didn't get a boost from a viral video trend this summer.
For your convenience and consideration, here are nine organizations that will graciously accept that $10 (or any amount you can afford to give).
My Grandma Bea, Ben's daughter, battled dementia at the end of her life. Alzheimer's Association's mission is to help prevent suffering like hers by promoting brain health, trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's Disease through research, and supporting those affected by these conditions.
Doctors Without Borders
For more than 40 years, Doctors Without Borders has been providing emergency medical aid to people around the world who are affected by epidemics, disasters, conflicts and lack of access to health care.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
As someone who has dealt with depression for almost 20 years, I am grateful to NAMI for their commitment to helping those with mental illness access treatment and fight stigmas.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
St. Jude is one of the most popular and well-promoted philanthropies, but that doesn't mean it's not in constant need of funds in order to continue providing care to children with catastrophic diseases, regardless of their families' ability to pay.
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
I've heard from those personally affected by pancreatic cancer how important and special the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is to them, due largely in part to their reputation for personalized support.
The Global Genes Project
Global Genes is an advocacy organization for those who are living with rare diseases, of which there are about 7,000. They act as a unifying voice for the 1 in 10 people who suffer from these various conditions.
American Diabetes Association
The American Diabetes Association unites volunteers, caregivers and those diagnosed with diabetes in an effort to fund research, provide services and information, and advocate for those with the disease.
Arthritis & Chronic Pain Research Institute
I've personally been dealing with autoimmune-related chronic pain since my early 20s, so I'm just glad these guys exist. They support research and educate the public about conditions that cause chronic pain and how it affects those who have it.
Dogs for the Deaf
This amazing organization, a personal favorite of mine, rescues and trains dogs so they may assist and enhance the lives of the hearing impaired and those with autism.
These are, of course, just a few of the many organizations that need donations. Even little ones. And if you can't donate right now, that's OK -- you don't have to make a video of yourself doing something silly.