Yet Another Opinion on the Ice Bucket Challenge

I don’t often do serious posts, but I don’t plan on doing the Ice Bucket Challenge. Not just because nobody in my social circle seems to be doing it, or because I don’t think ALS is a worthy charity (and in fact, the ALS Association is a quality charity), but because I think when it comes to charitable donations, people should feel free to donate according to their own values that compel them to do so.

People criticizing those choices saying, “Well, you aren’t saving as many lives as you would if you donated to a charity for clean water or malaria” or “You’re just doing this to be trendy” are being short-sighted and presumptuous. Even worse, they’re marginalizing an already marginalized group of people who suffer from ALS, have died from ALS, or have lost a loved one to ALS.

It’s not really all that different from the people who say “OK, but we don’t need feminism in this country anymore; women in impoverished and oppressive countries do.” It’s just not true. We’re all in need of help. Just because the group that needs help is smaller in size or because someone else decides they aren’t as important doesn’t completely invalidate that need.

The charities I donate to are close to my heart because they focus on issues that have affected people I care about, or may affect them someday. I spend hours each year researching, and for anyone to say that my choices are wrong or misplaced is unsolicited and unwelcome. Do the challenge or don’t do the challenge, but don’t criticize people for spending their money on something their hearts and minds lead them to.

If you’re looking for ideas for places to donate in addition to (or instead of) The ALS Association, these are the charities that usually make my list:

Be the Match (US) – A friend of mine lost her beautiful sweet boy to ALD last year. Her younger son’s life was saved, however, when he was matched with a donor. Please consider both giving a donation and signing up as a marrow donor. Actually, definitely sign up as a marrow donor. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you got matched and saved someone’s life? All you have to do is swab your cheek a few times and then mail the swabs in.

ALD Research Fund, University of Minnesota Foundation (MN) – The University of Minnesota is strong in research, ranked in the top 50 research universities. This particular charity is impressive with its fiscal responsibility, spending 84.7% of its revenue on the program.

Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of MN, Palliative & Hospice Care (MN) – This is the hospice organization that cared for my friend’s son. It is the only pediatric hospice service in the state!

Chesapeake Bay Trust (MD) – My kids and I go to the beach every year, and every time we cross over the Bay, they say, “Oooooooo!” I’d like to keep it that way, if not cleaner. Plus, you know, crabs.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (International) – Just read this.

Half the Sky (International)- no, not the economic empowerment movement, but a charity that takes care of the orphans/abandoned children (especially girls, children with cleft palates, and children with special needs) in China. They start up and help run local facilities with nurturing locals so that the children can grow up with bonds of intimacy instead of loneliness.

Manna Food Center (MD) –  this is my local food bank. 94% of their donations go to food distribution. Maybe you want to donate to the food bank near you, though you’re welcome to donate to mine.

Monterey Bay Aquarium (CA) – This aquarium has a Seafood Watch program where it tracks which species of fish are at risk and which kinds of fish are sustainable. Use the pocket guide!

Planned Parenthood (US) – In case my liberal leanings weren’t obvious enough, Planned Parenthood is a wonderful organization. It isn’t just “ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION!!!!”; for 2 years while I was a poor college student, I went to Planned Parenthood for my pelvic exams and birth control pills. My first pap smear ever was made tolerable by a kind, compassionate woman who understood that I had to pay out-of-pocket for my sexual health. It’s thanks to them that I never had to make the choice of whether to get an abortion or not.

Tzu Chi (International) – Tzu Chi is a Buddhist humanitarian relief organization. My mother found Buddhism late in life, and it brought her a lot of comfort while my father was fighting lung cancer. In return for that comfort and out of the Buddhist beliefs she’d adopted, she began volunteering frequently with this organization. When my mother died, and then my father, Tzu Chi sent monks to chant for both of my parents. On a less personal note, Tzu Chi was honored as the Champions of Change by the White House for their response to Hurricane Sandy, the Waco, TX explosion, and the Boston Marathon bombing:

After the hurricane, more than 4,000 Tzu Chi volunteers distributed hot meals, blankets and emergency cash debit cards worth nearly US$10 million to 18,000 households, helping more than 60,000 people in New York and New Jersey. In April this year, volunteers provided similar cash cards to those affected by the explosion of the Waco fertilizer plant in Texas and gave love and concern to the runners of the Boston marathon and their families after the bomb explosion.

If you have charities that are close to your heart, I would love to hear about them, even if they aren’t local to me. Please do share!


19 thoughts on “Yet Another Opinion on the Ice Bucket Challenge

  1. I am usually a cynic, and I tend to be disagreeable when it comes to doing what everyone else is doing. That means I started out predisposed to dislike the Ice Bucket Challenge, but then when I read a couple articles (I think on Slate, like this –, although this one does make some decent points:, I was able to target my disagreeableness at the anti-Ice Bucketers. Not that you are making any of these claims, but the bottom line is that I think for whatever reason, even if it’s narcissism, it has clearly succeeded in getting people to give significant amounts to charity. I haven’t been nominated, but would be happy to give to charity (and do, and have), and would feel no obligation to give to ALS – to me, it’s the spirit of the thing that matters anyways.

    Anyways, bottom line is that I agree with you, although I would enjoy dumping a bucket of ice water on your head. Maybe I should donate to one of your favorite charities for the privilege.

    Oh, also, since you asked: Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and I second Planned Parenthood, and this:

    Rock on.


    • HA! It’s funny, the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative at the top of The Life You Can Save’s list was Earl’s #1 pick for a global charity that does that maximum amount of good per dollar. Or pound, as it were. Way to validate him 🙂



  2. Great post! I’ve remained on the fence about the whole thing as I think it is great that people have been inspired to donate so much money to a worthy cause. My charity is the RSPCA – it’s all about the animals for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • YEAH! The Humane Society is usually on my list, but they’ve recently become embroiled in some kind of financial/racketeering brouhaha where they told donors that insurance would cover $16 million settlement fee when they were already told that it wouldn’t.

      In addition to doing good work, I also need them to be ethically and fiscally responsible. I might switch to my local SPCA instead.


  3. A very close friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with ALS, so it’s close to my heart, and I’m watching all of this fund raising with glee and gratitude. That being said, the tendency that people have to “promote” their issue by telling others that theirs is not as worthy makes me rage.

    My favorite charities are:
    Scares That Care (I have a thing for local charities doing local good)

    and I try to help people that I see…and I’m pretty much a patsy for any child fund raising for anything.

    I’m going to check out your links, too. 🙂


    • I’m so sorry about your friend ❤ I can understand the tendency when it's born out of the perspective that the money being donated isn't new money, but money that's been reallocated from one possibly more deserving charity to another. The problem is that "more deserving" is subjective depending on what measure you're using. "Preventing bad shit that happened to my loved one from happening to others" is no less legitimate than "What's the most number of lives I can save?"

      On ALS and WorldBuilders, did you see THIS??


  4. “” It’s not really all that different from the people who say “OK, but we don’t need feminism in this country anymore; women in impoverished and oppressive countries do.” It’s just not true. “” I love that you wrote this. I just had a person comment on my facebook post about the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri, saying “Black people should appreciate they aren’t slaves anymore. We don’t need activists, black people across the ocean do.” Disgusting right?? Ugh. So I can relate!
    Thanks for posting, always enjoy your blog.


    • I think a really great side effect of all the discussion surrounding where to donate, and whether one charity is more worthy than another, is that at least people are starting to think about charitable giving in a more responsible way (fiscally, macrocosmically, morally, etc).


  5. I’ve been on the fence about the whole challenge. I have a friend who lost her mother to ALS just a few months ago and she feels hurt by the campaign on a personal level, that her friends didn’t donate then but will now. That aside, it seems that to me that the end result is what’s important. A good thing is happening.

    And for my charity,


    • Oh, your poor friend 😦 It’s too bad that her loss alone didn’t register with her friends. I would tend to agree with you: increased awareness in both ALS and charitable giving is a really good thing.


  6. So you made a serious post..Ummm okay I have to digest this first 😉
    Haha! But hats off to you lady for writing a compelling post. I think charity and donation is a very personal affair and decision. I like the fact that you nowhere dominated your opinion! I believe a campaign should help a cause, agreements and disagreements are so a part ( who really cares??). Thanks for sharing this..!


    • I know! It’s very unlike me! 😀

      I’m almost finished reading a book about the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and it’s so disappointing and shocking how much ego and fear of criticism interfered with the protection of public health.


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