It's the ice bucket that opened the floodgates of charitable giving.
Ever since golfer Greg Norman challenged NBC's "TODAY" host Matt Lauer to toss an ice bucket over his head in mid-July to raise money for the Hospice of Palm Beach County in Florida, the Ice Bucket Challenge has become a social media and media sensation.
But aside from raising awareness and more than $20 million for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, over the past month, the challenge also may be unleashing a new model for the $300 billion-a-year business of charitable giving.
"This campaign is a real breakthrough," said Melissa Berman, president and CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, which advises charitable donors and foundations. "It's raised a huge amount of money for something that's an ongoing condition not a natural disaster or immediate crisis. That's a very fundamental shift. And I think it should cause the nonprofit world to take notice."
The business of getting people to give to charity has changed remarkably little over the 125 years since Andrew Carnegie first ushered in modern philanthropy with his book "The Gospel of Wealth." Most nonprofits have basically followed the same three-step model: Find rich people in a community, solicit them for dollars by phone and mail, then hold dinners, fundraisers, walkathons or similar events to expand and honor collections.