Internet videos, memes, and other content that goes “viral” is ephemeral: those hits fade, and the fickle denizens of the Internet move on to something else. Sometimes such viral hits are just fluff, but sometimes they have more heft to them. In either case, they can get annoying, especially to people subjected to the constant chatter but who don’t see the appeal.
On the other hand, they can also do good.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge made the rounds in the fall of 2014, with people dumping ice water on themselves to raise awareness of ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gerhig’s Disease. The idea was to get people to donate–and, surprisingly, it did exactly that. The campaign raised $115 million for the ALS Association.
That money helped to fund the scientific experiments that led to the discovery of a new gene, NEK1, which contributes to the disease. This is a huge step forward in understanding how the disease works and who it targets. It also takes us closer to finding a way to cure or prevent it. Using the viral meme to raise money was a great example of “thinking outside of the box,” making use of modern cultural phenomena to raise money.
Of course, you can’t “make” video or meme go viral on purpose. Things go viral because they get the attention of the Internet, but you can’t plan for that. Attempts to force viral content generally fail, so it’s not a reliable way to raise funds.
However, putting the effort into using the Internet as a fundraising tool is worth it, even if you don’t make a viral hit. Finding a way to communicate with donors, both current and potential, is the first step toward getting a viral hit of your own.