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The Power of Viral Charity

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If you have Facebook, Twitter, or even Instagram, by now you have seen videos of your friends pouring ice water over their heads. Perhaps you have even done it yourself. In fact, if you visit some of The LIBRE Initiative’s staff’s Twitter feeds, you can watch videos of us doing it, too (here, here, and here).  In an extremely short amount of time, the now ubiquitous Ice Bucket Challenge has raised millions for the ALS Association and is one of the best examples of charity going internet-viral – and its success should be celebrated for several reasons.

First, the Ice Bucket Challenge is an amazing instance showcasing the power of the individual to combine technology, social media, and generosity to achieve truly positive results. The internet craze has not only raised awareness of a debilitating disease for which there is currently no cure, but as of this writing it also raised over $22.9 million (and counting) for the ALS Association and other charities that can go towards research for a cure. The ALS challenge is one of the more visible examples of this phenomenon, but it is important to keep in mind that charitable giving driven by technology occurs every day – and Latinos play a large part. In fact, 23% of Latinos have used their mobile devices to make charitable donations, compared to just 7% of white individuals: that’s more than a three-fold difference.  Latinos overall are more plugged-in to their mobile devices, and are more likely to post videos, share status updates, and make purchases on their phones – so the role that Hispanics play in these types of viral, internet events is indispensable.

Second, the success should be celebrated because it was completely voluntary. Too often, we are bombarded with false notions that research, development, and charity must be funded by taxpayer dollars – but the Ice Bucket Challenge suggests otherwise. When individuals have a choice in which charities and research opportunities they get to help, there is a more intimate connection to the result, and the success is that much more meaningful -- and there is a lot of evidence showing just how generous Latinos in particular are, especially to causes near and dear to their hearts.  A well-known example is when Hurricane Mitch damaged a large portion of the Caribbean and Central America in 1998, The Red Cross reported that most of the offers for support came from Hispanics.

Finally, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a cause for celebration because it is an uplifting story coming out of the news. From the sluggish economy, to the daily roller coaster that is the Affordable Care Act, to the heartbreaking crisis playing out on our border, to countless other stories currently in the news cycle – it is important to take a step back and recognize the good that is going on in the world, and that we all – as individuals – have the power to spread it.