Mark Zuckerberg ice dunk brings ALS challenge to tech billionaires

Mark Zuckerberg ice dousing? The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that has gone viral and helped to raise millions of dollars for ALS research. Now it has expanded to tech billionaires who are dousing themselves with icy water. 

By , Staff Writer

You've seen the Facebook posts: videos of people you know being unceremoniously doused in ice. You may have even walked by a group of people on your way home from work filming themselves with buckets and bags of ice in preparation for the challenge that seems to be sweeping the nation – or, at least, going viral on your news feeds. 

It's all part of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The way it works is simple: someone who has soaked themselves challenges others to follow suit. If they don't do so within 24 hours, they must donate to a charity of their choosing. Frequently, people choose to both soak and donate. And because each participant challenges a new group of people, it's easy to understand how the trend is going like gangbusters. 

In recent weeks the movement increased its popularity when friends and family of the former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates used it to raise awareness for Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as ALS, which Mr. Frates was diagnosed with in 2012. 

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The challenge, trending with hashtags such as #IceBucketChallenge and #StrikeOutALS, has raised $9.5 million in donations between July 29 and Aug. 15 compared with $1.6 million during the same time period last year, according to the ALS Association, noting that among those who donated this year, 184,812 were new donors. 

But once a trend goes beyond average folks and gains traction among tech billionaires, you know you've got a fundraising campaign that's going to be studied in marketing classes for years to come. 

Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has taken on the challenge. In his video, he explains that New Jersey governor Chris Christie challenged him to take on the ice or take out his pocket book. "Governor, I accept your challenge," Mr. Zuckerberg says. He then proceeds to nominate three others to the challenge. He nominates Bill Gates, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, and Netflix founder and chief executive Reed Hastings. Zuckerberg gave them 24 hours to take on the challenge or else they should donate. He then pours a blue bucket of ice water over his head. 

But Zuckerberg isn't the only member of the upper echelons of Silicon Valley who has done the dousing. Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella had ice dumped on him by the team that won Microsoft's recent Hackathon – he subsequently challenged Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Google's Larry Page. Apple marketing executive Phil Schiller took the challenge and then challenged Apple chief executive Tim Cook. And on and on. 

In addition to spreading awareness of ALS research, these top-level executives seem to be learning an important lesson themselves. In the words of Zuckerberg, ice water is "really cold."

"We’re heartened that the momentum of this incredible visibility continues," says Barbara Newhouse, president and chief executive officers of the ALS Association, in a statement. "We are so thankful for the generous outpouring of donations and people’s interest in learning more about ALS."

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