Two girls post-ice bucket challenge

Why we got all hot and bothered over the #IceBucketChallenge

Macmillan’s Head of Digital Amanda Neylon talks about the recent social media activity and how we’re working together to respond to our audiences.

The #IceBucketChallenge has reached social media nirvana in the past two weeks. My mum’s done it. Your mum’s done it. This guy did it at the top of a mountain and probably would have won the whole thing if it was a competition (which it isn’t, to be clear).

We certainly never expected it to get this big.

Before we begin though, let’s be straight: we don’t own the #IceBucketChallenge hashtag. Nobody does. It’s a hashtag. And it’s something that in the charity sector, we need to continue to have a healthy debate about.

We’ve seen thousands of our supporters braving the challenge for us in the past few weeks. And we think it’s awesome that they’ve chosen to do it for us. But people are also drenching themselves for other charities, and that’s just great too. Whoever people choose to raise money for, we’re just delighted that people are fundraising.

We certainly didn’t start the trend of people pouring a bucket of ice water on their head. We’re not too sure where it started, but you can find a pretty good piece on the history of the trend here.

So what do we know?

We know that in July, we began noticing that our supporters were talking about the #IceBucketChallenge on social media. Some of them did it for Macmillan, and some of them did it for other charities of their choice. We thought it seemed like a fun way to raise money.

At this point, we’d seen people in New Zealand doing it and then choosing a cancer charity of their choice to donate to. And this was all happening before David Beckham et al started tipping a bucket on their head in the US to raise awareness for ALS.

So what did we do about it?

It’s simple. We listened to our supporters, and amplified their actions.

We started posting on our social media channels, and published a little page of instructions on how to do the challenge, which was the top organic search result for weeks. As search traffic started increasing, we also began some PPC (pay per click) advertising, and promoted some of our supporters amazing #IceBucketChallenge’s on Facebook and Twitter. Along with media and PR, this is a normal part of any organisation’s marketing campaign.

After all, it’s because of our supporters’ brilliant fundraising efforts that we’re able to keep providing our vital services. We exist because of them, and with two million people in the UK currently living with cancer, it’s only right that we get behind their efforts. So far #icebucketchallenge has raised enough to fund six Macmillan nurses for a year, meaning that more people can have access to specialist support. That’s got to be a good thing.

As a digital team here at Macmillan, we never used to be quite so responsive. It’s a recent thing for us. And believe me, we’re still learning.

Our biggest learning curve was after the #nomakeselfie campaign. James Higgot summed it up pretty well recently on Twitter:

Criticism of Macmillan for ‘hijacking’ #IceBucketChallenge is nothing compared to bollocking they prob got for not hijacking #nomakeupselfie

Ouch, that hurts James. But it’s true. He’s right, we were too slow – it was a big motivator to be much better the next time an opportunity came along.

So, since #nomakeupselfie, I’d like to think that we’ve had some success with #tubestrike and #thatsmydad. We’re trying to be bolder, we’re listening to what’s going on all over the world, and we’re responding more quickly than we have in the past. We’re trying new things so that we can keep moving forward as an organisation.

And now #IceBucketChallenge. It’s certainly kept us busy here at Macmillan HQ, and we’ve really pulled together, with teams all around the organisation helping out, getting involved and amplifying the message.

Zoe Amar summed up our #IceBucketChallenge actions pretty well:

Macmillan simply listened to their audience & noticed they had an appetite to use the #icebucketchallenge

I’d really recommend reading her article on the #IceBucketChallenge. It’s a good lesson for charities to learn, big or small.

But I’d like to think that we’re becoming a more responsive organisation. One that puts people affected by cancer and our supporters at the heart of everything we do.

You can read more about our views on the #IceBucketChallenge here.



  1. Benjamin Rombough

    From an outsiders point of view with a vested interest in MND. The Macmillan campaign feels like you are trying to own it by creating your own branded campaign content and paid advertising so when people come into the trend late (and lets face it most do) most people think its of it as ‘the official’ charity. Macmillan have said they’ve had most of their donations in the last couple of weeks so clearly benefiting from global reach of ALS version of the idea. A quick Twitter search shows when people are confused about who’s campaign it is you see lots of ‘It’s ALS in the states but Macmillan are the UK charity’. Granted its not Macmillan saying this but the atributation feels guilty by omission. So it does look that Macmillan have outshouted using its media budgets. I think this is what’s driving the bad feeling.

    I guess what a lot of people are interested in though is whether you, Macmillan, acted ethically (or even right from a PR/brand point of view) by marketing the campaign, rather than just retweeting user generated content that had been created spontaneously.

    The question is whether you should spend money (PPC, sponsored tweets, FB ads) to drive awareness and donations for a cause. I know Macmillan say on your website that other charities are also benefitting but £250,000 vs £10,000 thats less than 5%, you seem to be the only one. By putting money against keywords to actively ‘own’ it.

    I take the point about nobody owning an Hashtag but it does seem to be a case of bad sportsmanship on Macmillan’s part. Whether or not ALS started the trend is irrelevant, comical red noses existed before Red Nose Day, the fact is ALS made it fly. It will die down soon so why couldn’t Macmillan just sit back and allow another lesser know charity have their moment for while? Macmillan do tremendous work but this ill-advised move has left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I hope you take the time to write as detailed a reply.

    • Rebecca Cryan

      Hi Benjamin,
      Thanks for taking the time to read the blog, and for your interest in the activity. I’ve read your responses both here and on Facebook carefully to try to offer an answer to the questions that I’ve interpreted from them.

      I believe what you are asking is, why did we put marketing spend behind this, and is it ethical that we continued promotional activity once ALS had started to gain momentum in the US?

      To answer the first part, you’re right that we put spend behind the spontaneous activity in order to amplify it – to reach more people. And yes, with the aim to raise more money.

      It’s our responsibility as an organisation to fundraise so that we can support as many people with cancer as possible. Our aim is to support everyone affected by cancer, currently 2 million people in the UK, but rising to 4 million in the next 15 years. It’s our responsibility to the 2 million people with cancer and their friends and families, to raise as much money as we can. So we amplified the message by putting some marketing spend behind it.

      Before we were aware of the ALS activity, in the UK we had already seen activity from the deaf community, from Wateraid and from Leukemia and Lymphoma Research. I agree we would not actively promote a fundraising activity launched by a single charity, but I think an approach to pause fundraising which has had multiple charities already involved would require commitment from a collective of charities, and have its own ethical dilemmas.

      Bearing the 4 million people with cancer in future in mind, we can’t carry on doing what we’ve always done. We have to reach more people otherwise we’ll only be supporting half of the cancer population in 15 years time. That’s why we marketed the spontaneous activity rather than just retweeting user-generated content. The latter would reach our existing supporters, but we need to reach more people, people who aren’t supporting us yet.

      So then it becomes a question of whether a charity trying to raise as much money as possible is ethical? Because of the Ice Bucket Challenge we have raised enough money to fund 6 more Macmillan nurses, who can support almost a thousand more people a year. That’s got to be a good thing. The ALS has raised over $22 million which will have a global impact on people with motor neurone disease/ALS, as well as unprecedented awareness generated.

      We’re delighted that fundraising is in the news at all and we would encourage people to donate to whichever charity is close to their heart. We believe it’s got to be a great thing for the whole sector.

      I hope that answers some of your concerns Benjamin, and thanks again for your interest in Macmillan and for raising some really interesting points for us to think about.


      • Andrew Grant

        “It’s our responsibility as an organisation to fundraise so that we can support as many people with cancer as possible.”

        Would you rob a bank? That’s a really easy way to make money.
        No? Where do you draw the line? Would you rob another charity?
        Because that’s what you’ve done.
        Those six nurses that are now caring for cancer patients,
        are six nurses that aren’t caring for people with Motor Neurone Disease.
        “That’s got to be a good thing” my arse.

        You have to take care when combating cancer, not to become a cancer yourself. Shame on you. How do you sleep at night? You’re no more ethical than Starbucks.

        • Anomalous Cowherd

          Here here,

          Macmillan have lost A LOT of support over this. Anyone I speak to is either shocked that they’d steal from a smaller, lesser known charity, or not surprised as they’ve done it before with other campaigns strongly associated with smaller charities.

          I also worry how much money Macmillan’s PR team are wasting. They are on overdrive at the moment making excuses and contradictions (twitter – Ice bucket challenge has been going on for ages, we didn’t steal it. Press releases – We couldn’t miss this opportunity to raise money, so joined in).

          The best thing for Macmillan’s reputation would be to apologise, donate to an MND charity, and put a link from their ice bucket challenge web page to an MND charity. I fear the current “naah naah naah, not listening, naah naah naah” attitude is making people turn away.

  2. Victor Ling

    Over the last two years, I have raised over £2000 for MacMillan. Not a great deal of money, but not a small amount either.

    The fact that you are getting bad publicity about it, have changed your Facebook page so that the negative reviews and have stopped the PPC campaign demonstrate the strength of feeling towards what you have done.

    You can try and justify it all you want, but you know that you have behaved completely immorally.

    I will no longer be campaigning for MacMillan – and that is a shame. The only way that will be rectified is if you make a full apology (not some half arsed ‘we are sorry but…’) and give full credit (and preferably donation) to Motor Neurone Disease Association.

    I have already had a conversation with the local fund raising manager (who is in agreement with me that this is outrageous behaviour.)

    I also know others who have done the Shave or Style who also feel gutted that you are hijacking another charity.

    • Rebecca Cryan

      Hi Victor,

      Firstly, thank you so much for the tremendous fundraising that you’ve undertaken for Macmillan, it really does make a difference to people affected by cancer so thank you.

      Please see my response to Benjamin above. I don’t believe that we have behaved immorally, we’ve been doing what we’re supposed to do and that’s to raise money to support people affected by cancer. Hopefully the blog and other response explain why we genuinely believe we haven’t hijacked anything, Macmillan’s involvement in the #icebucketchallenge evolved organically from our supporters, and we then amplified what they were doing.

      I’m sorry that you will no longer be supporting us as a charity, but I hope that you’ll continue your charitable activities for another charity of your choice. We’re delighted that so many organisations are benefiting from the spotlight that’s been shone on this challenge, both in terms of money raised and awareness generated.

      All the best,

      • Kay

        I have sponsored several cancer charities and thousands of pounds for cancer research, macmillan & children with cancer UK and I have never been more disgusted with a charity in my life as I am with yours today. I understand how cancer affects people I have lost many family members (the youngest was 35 to cancer) but you are missing the point about why people are outraged.

        It was ALS Ice Bucket Challenge which gained global momentum & you have actively hijacked it by spending huge amounts of advertising to deflect away from ALS & towards a smaller, less well known charity that was having its chance to raise awareness & funds. You will deny this but I have corrected 8 people on my facebook today who have posted ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge’ with your text number.

        If it was trending so well from your own supporters prior to your ad campaign it would have indeed gone viral without you spending on adverts & been hailed in the press as a multi-charity movement anyway wouldn’t it?!?

        It was so impressive that such a small & less well known charity received such attention & you have tarnished it by wading in & ruining the spirit of it.

        I saw a reply to you buying the adword ‘Ice Challenge’ and your comment that as no one bought ‘ALS Ice Challenge’ it defaults to your sites. ALS charities are less well funded & will not waste money on competitive advertising- initially they didn’t beed to consider this because ALS Ice Challenge had gone viral (unlike yours!)

        I read your replies above with interest. Seems to me your attitude is one of ‘sod anyone else lets do what’s best for Macmillan’ and use this to justify hijacking the campaign with heavy advertising- this action appears to lack ethics & morality.

        You can’t even acknowledge you have caused confusion & blatantly taken donations from people claiming to be doing challenges for ALS! Shame on you.

  3. Leah Mates

    As someone who supports multiple charities – from cancer-related to environmental (some for very personal reasons), I would strongly disagree with anyone that believes that any form of fundraising for a better world is ‘immoral’ – regardless of where the money sits.

    If someone wants to do the ice-bucket challenge and donate to ALS, then that’s fantastic. But equally there will be many people out there who would prefer to donate to a cancer-related charity – or maybe even an International Aid charity. And rather than being a negative, that’s what I think is the beauty of campaigns like this – they allow everyone to raise awareness and raise funds for a cause that is close to them.

    I myself took part in the No Make-Up Selfie and chose to donate to Breakthrough Breast Cancer as opposed to Cancer Research UK. I have friends I know who have participated recently in the Ice-Bucket Challenge and chose to either not donate at all, donate to ALS or or who donated to an entirely different charity.

    Charitable social media campaigns like this one often begin from the grass-roots up and are driven by supporters of each individual charity and as a Macmillan supporter and a supporter of many other charities, I would want to know that those I

  4. Leah Mates

    I would want to know that those I support are making sure they raise as much awareness and as much money as possible.

    So I say good on Macmillan for making sure they reacted to what their supporters wanted and promoting the ice-bucket challenge as something they could do.

  5. Leah Mates

    I would want to know that those charities I support are doing everything to raise more awareness and raise more money and are making sure they respond to what their supporters want.

  6. Benjamin Rombough

    Hello Rebecca,

    Firstly. Thank you for taking the time to publicly respond to my questions in such a detailed way.

    I would like to challenge a few points you have raised above though.

    1. Regarding Water Aid, Leukemia and Lymphoma Research. From the brief research I have carried out, there seems to be clear definitions of time between acts of promotion months apart in some cases from these individuals. They aren’t jumping all over each other to take the limelight. Furthermore, being not too dissimilar in size and their levels of public awareness it wouldn’t matter a great deal if they did decide to run them concurrently. Finally Water Aid and its activists are actively campaigning to stop the challenge citing the huge waste of water that’s being used in these bucket challenges.

    2. ALS has raised some amazing amounts of money, quite literally staggering. You are probably unaware that ALS has no financial or research ties with the Motor Neurone Disease association or others in the UK. That is why the momentum gained was so important in the UK for the charities. The 7.8 million USD per day being currently raised in the USA will have no benefit to the UK based ALS charities, unless a cure is found and then freely distributed outside of the American pharmaceutical companies. As you were probably unaware of this it may have seemed acceptable, especially if you thought the money was being shared.

    3. Thank you for detailing numbers regarding the cancer sufferers I don’t believe I questioned your need to fundraise, but with respect to “So then it becomes a question of whether a charity trying to raise as much money as possible is ethical?” This was never the question, that’s frankly absurd.

    So we do not have to rely on interpretation of questions.

    The question is “whether it is ethical or morally wrong for you to take the momentum gained from a large fundraising activity abroad and divert it away from the UK charity through targeted, funded advertising?“

    Let me explain my reason for asking. Kurtis Fehr has looked into the way you have set up your Google ads. He does this for a living and is VERY good at it.
    If anyone Googles “ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE” I get a sponsored Google ad linking to your page.
    Now just as you can include trigger words for your advert to appear based on search strings. You can also exclude words when entered as part of your search string.
    Kurtis has discovered that, Macmillan has chosen not to exclude the Google ad from appearing when “ALS” or “MND” is mentioned in the search query.

    Let me be crystal clear here. This was a conscious choice not to exclude these keywords. Kurtis assures me this is fundamental part of the process of setting up the Google ad. So this is either:

    A. Naivety in the far extreme,
    B. Incompetence on the behalf of the staff member who set this up,
    C. Deliberate, and targeted with the sole aim of drawing people into Macmillan away from ALS or MND.

    The widespread public distain for your campaign stems from when someone as gigantic as yourselves with such public presence and awareness, runs a campaign at the same time as someone as small as the MND association, you are going to end up shining brighter without the need for additional funded advertising or media.

    By funding targeted adverts, you have not hijacked or stolen anything, legally your golden. What you have done though is appear to underhandedly divert worldwide momentum as it reached the uk shores. By running your own monetised campaign you look like you are diverting funds and momentum away from a UK charity which will not directly benefit from the tidal wave of momentum occurring overseas as I have mentioned above in point 2.

    I hope you have made it this far in my post. I would like to know the answer to my question and I would appreciate some clarity regarding the Google ad campaign.

    Best Regards
    Benjamin Rombough

    • Benjamin Rombough

      Gone quiet in here….when i raised the lack of response on facebook and linked to here, I have had the posts on the facebook page deleted by Macmillan.

  7. Anon

    I would make the point that people chose the charities they want to do this for. It’s not like MND would have gained all the people who’ve done the challenge for Macmillan is it? If anything, more people have heard of the MND Association because of this controversy. I’d argue people finding IBC through PCC is far smaller than the challenge aspect that passes through social media.

    So let’s say someone sees the Google ad whilst googling MND. They then choose to do it for Macmillan. The odds are that’s a choice made because of a personal connection, and not because someone paid for PPC.

    Also, Macmillan had supporters doing this before ALS was even actively promoting this, and long before MND did. Should they have suddenly stopped running with this just because it’s proven popular for ALS in America? I’ve got friends claiming to do the “ALS ice bucket challenge”, dumping water on themselves and then not donating at all! At least Macmillan’s had the sense to encourage donations either way.

    • Ryan Cook

      Well yes, they would have, because that’s who people think they are donating to when they see Macmillan advertising their own numbers.

      The point of the challenge is to raise money for ALS/MND so the more people that do it the more those charities get. So everytime someone does a challenge for ALS and donates the money to Macmillan instead, ALS/MND are losing that donation.

  8. Adam

    This article doesn’t address the issue of simply plagiarising a good campaign from a charity minnow, hijacked by a relative giant. To say ‘we are still learning’, we need to be quicker, is missing the point entirely…

    If any ‘bollockings’ are being dished out then it should be for hijacking a campaign but also a lack of innovation. Personally, I’d be embarrassed.

  9. Mark Newby

    What a shame as Macmillan are such a great charity but now you have set a precedent does this mean it’s ok to sell poppies, daffodils and red hearts or run the race for life for any charity you chose? I feel this has done more damage than good for Macmillan. Why did you block out The MNDA from the google searches. Friends and family of ours who thought they were donating and promoting MNDA were by mistake picking up your too similar just Giving address. Please can you advise how refunds can be obtained or redirected to the MNDA.

  10. Matt Collins

    Personally, I don’t think it’s fair to say that an act as simple as dumping a bucket of ice cold water over your head can only be done for one charity.

    People all over the world have been doing it for lots of different causes, consciously choosing which one they did it for. It seemed to be big in the deaf community for example:

    Assuming a charity can own a meme (and I don’t think it can), then the organisation that owns it is the ALS Association, an American charity. Not MND Association, a British charity without official ties to the ALS Association (as far as I know) who are equally happy and surprised that people are doing the ice bucket challenge for them.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people choosing the charity they do it for, or Macmillan encouraging people to do it for them. The comparisons with poppies and red noses are unfair – those have been around for decades, this has been around for weeks.

    Marathons, sponsored silences, skydives, cake sales, PAYE giving, badges, ribbons…all fundraising activities that no charity owns. I would like to see ice bucket challenge go the same way. The power of such a simple, fun and social activity is clearly massive, and to restrict it to just one organisation would be short sighted.

    The fundraising teams in all charities are on a mission to massively change people’s lives for the better. I don’t think arguments about ownership of memes are important enough to stop them.

    • Ryan Cook

      So would it be ok if I raised money for Race for Life and then gave it all to a blind care charity?

      What Macmilan have done is punched the ALS/MND charity collectors in town to the floor, stamped on their head and said “hey, gives us your money, we’re a charity”.

  11. John

    The issue comes with the PPC advertising. Macmillan might have stopped on Facebook and Twitter but they are continuing to advertise on Google. I have an Adwords Account and checked to see the cost of keywords “ice bucket challenge” – up to £10k, per day.

    This has led to many people posting on Facebook “Support ALS/MND by texting ICE to 70550” – this is actually Macmillan’s number. It is really difficult to assess how many people meant to give to ALS/MND but unintentionally donated to Macmillan instead.

    Everyone knows and appreciates that money for charity is tight, and Macmillan do a great job, if people were donating through ice bucket challenge to Macmillan organically then no problem, but this is a real cock-up in their social media/fundraising dept.

  12. Kate Smith

    I fully support the work of Macmillan having experienced at first hand their amazing care for my husband in his final weeks. Hosever, I am extremly disappiinted to find my text donation for the icebucket challenge has not gone to ALS as I intended. Macmillan, you know that people think the 70550 number is for ALS…infact you text back from a different number. Be fair, make people aware that the number is yours. I am actually angry as your behaviour is certainly not charitable . PR people can justify as much as they like but all they have done is damage the reputation of macmillan. I will now search to find out how I can donate money and it go to where I intended it to go…ALS.

  13. Dave Crowther

    Rebecca, I am another long time supporter of and fundraiser for Macmillan and other cancer charities who believes that in your enthusiasm to support everyone affected by cancer you have crossed the line and have behaved in an immoral fashion.
    Since you know well that supporters are hard to acquire and easy to lose then this is significant for your organisation.
    Just as the ice bucket challenge has spread exponentially across the world so you may not realise that the damage to your brand is also spreading. However, the damage is happening without the aid of ice and YouTube, but instead by word of mouth, so may currently be invisible to you.
    As the mood turns to fatigue with the challenge, as it has over the past couple of days, then the media will be looking for a negative story to reflect the mood of the people. You are currently writing that negative story for them.
    Seize the opportunity Tuesday morning offers to take the moral high ground, disassociate yourselves from the challenge and promote ALS (and answer Benjamin’s questions truthfully).
    From my perspective by doing so in the process you will be supporting the long-term interests of all affected by cancer.

  14. brido

    Think you should resign your post as I do not believe you have the correct ethics to continue

  15. Simon Singh

    To be clear here – neither MNDA or Macmillan are charities I would normally support so I’ve no real axe to grind, but this whole episode has left a very bad taste in my mouth.

    Let’s be honest: the whole #IceBucketChallenge and its profile has only really taken off in the last few weeks thanks to many high celebrities in the US taking part. Even if Macmillan’s activities do predate this (and that’s far from certain) that isn’t really the point and isn’t why people are upset. The objection is the way that Macmillan have taken the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and re-branded it as a Macmillan fund raiser.

    From the Google Adwords campaign that deliberately does not exclude ALS or MND related terms, to Macmillan issued press releases for the “Macmillan Ice Bucket Challenge” featuring celebrities who performed it for ALS charities, to the SMS short code that is strikingly similar to the one used by MNDA the whole thing comes across as very cynical..

    The thing is – given how much this has raised for Macmillan, the management team probably consider it worth the short term bad PR…

    However for me – the key question is why were ALS and MND terms not excluded from the Adwords campaign?

  16. Tammy

    MacMillan: You should look at this. A great way to deal with this ludicrous trend of people getting themselves cold and wet 🙂

  17. Rob Chadwick

    Rebecca, I am an ALS patient and I’m spending my own money to direct google ads for “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” and “MND Ice bucket Challenge” to direct to MND Association UK’s website. In the past 48 hours I’ve spent almost $300.

    You are capitalizing on the confusion by advertising for ALS and MND and using the names of several ALS Ice Bucket Challenge participants in your press release.

    I haven’t been able to get a response from anyone I’ve contacted at Macmillan, so maybe you’ll answer my questions here in public for the benefit of others who share the same concerns:

    1. Why aren’t you excluding ALS and MND from your keyword ads? There are other ads of ALS/MND (I can show you my google adwords billing statement). But even if their weren’t ads for ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, people would have clicked on the non-sponsored (and ALS-focused) links if it weren’t for your ad.

    2. Why are you using ALS charity supporters names in your own press release?

    3. You are clearly benefiting from the confusion you’ve helped to create among the public and in the news. Why don’t you provide a banner and link on your ice bucket challenge website for those people you have misdirected to your website: “Looking for the ALS/MND Ice Bucket Challenge?”

    • Anomalous Cowherd

      “2. Why are you using ALS charity supporters names in your own press release?”
      This left a sour taste in my mouth too.

      I wonder what would happen if Macmillan tried to hijack a bigger charity (than MND), like red-nose day, or children in need…

      “#rednoseday – it’s just a hashtag, no one owns it”

  18. Ryan Cook

    The ice water simulates the conditions ALS / MND suffers are subjected to – it’s relevant to the cause.

    What you have done is systematically advertised the challenge and your own donations lines without any mention of what people are donating to. Not only have you deliberately mislead the public into thinking that they are donating to ALS/MND when the money is going into your £187 million a year pot, you have taken out Google advertising campaigns using ALS and MND as keywords so that you receive priority exposure in search results.

    I encourage everyone who reads this to lodge a formal complaint to the Fundraising Standards Board at

  19. Anoup Kerrai

    I hate to rubbish a charity seems pretty low, but Macmillan seem to have sunk low themselves on this one occasion… I would never say Macmillan don’t deserve donations because the work their nurses do is excellent and worth it, but the tactics used here are very saddening. This might’ve started in New Zealand but no attempt was made to take it main stream by Macmillan before interest in America kicked it off for ALS. This ambiguity in donations is what is causing the hurt, people who are genuinely stating they’re doing this challenge for ALS and not for Macmillan or for any other charity and are being mislead and confused.

    Donate as you like, no specific charity started throwing Ice water around. But if you’re looking at the plight of MNDA sufferers, the numbing symptoms of which a bucket of Ice gives you then text ICED55 TO 70070.

    The 70550 number is for Macmillan cancer research, who do nothing for ALS/MNDA.

    Have to be honest Macmillan whilst an excellent cause have brazenly hijacked an idea and used their might against smaller charities who stood to originally benefit. This has questionably taken hundreds of thousands from a lesser known much smaller underfunded group of ALS/MNDA sufferers…

    Macmillan have spent millions on advertising coffee mornings but have not spent a penny on this challenge, which can be argued means they’ve worked efficiently, but not at the expense of another charity. If this was a mindless exercise with no real cause that would be different but people are clearly doing this for ALS and have been misled by donating to Macmillan and that is deplorable especially as there has been no attempt from Macmillan to fairly correct donations via the Google Macmillan IceBucket page or any other means at their disposal that such a large charity as at it’s disposal. Again it’s this ambiguity causing the hurt not people who genuinely do the challenge for Macmillan.

    People do have a choice when they run a marathon or walk for miles but this is different, Macmillan’s blog response seems to indicate that they will jump on anything after missing the boat on the “no makeup selfie”, however where do you draw the line for what’s next to jump on? Dogs for Christmas? Children in need?

    This “hijacking” seems to be the point that has caused ill feeling, Cancer sufferers and family members will now feel the wrath of this ill feeling which adds to the sadness all around… No one needs this really it seems petty and to be honest an open letter apology or some compassion for ALS sufferers and any mis-earned donations would go someway to appease, instead it seems Macmillan are just unnecessarily fighting these claims in the press which will waste money…

  20. Pete Liberty

    I find this all very strange, are we really debating the moral compass of a charity?
    Is life so great that we can actually argue about where charitable funding goes and get frustrated about it?

    Let’s not lose focus or get wrapped up in this. Macmillan does great work and every bad comment against this campaign stops that progressive and brand from achieving their goals.

    If you have an opinion, thats far enough but to voice it in such a way effects this great charities reputation towards a goal which is very much needed.

  21. Naz

    If you think that people flagging up this issue is what’s damaging Macmillan’s reputation you’ve really missed the point.

    You’re right, all charitable funding is lovely. But if one charity aggressively uses pay per click advertising to ‘scoop’ off interest from other charities (especially smaller ones that wouldn’t give thousands of pounds to google for sponsored ads) then that is what’s going to damage their reputation. The number of people who say they’re doing the ALS challenge and yet give the Macmillan number in their video because of the confusion Macmillan has caused is actually really depressing – especially when you look at the large difference in donations and publicity the two charities receive in an average year.

    Of course, I’m sure if another charity set up a google sponsored ads campaign using the keywords ‘World’s biggest coffee morning’ that’d be ok. And that’s fine, because I’m sure everyone who chucks a bucket of water over their head – for whatever charity – wants their donation to go to Google…

  22. Lucy

    I think the biggest issue here is that a large majority of people were carrying out the ice bucket challenge claiming they were doing it for ALS/MND and spreading the word of a number to donate to, which was, unknowingly to them infact a number for Macmillan who do no work at all the support those with ALS/MND or to find a cure.
    If people make a CHOICE to donate to other charities as part of their challenge, then brilliant. But the fact is, there is no denying that this challenge was created to raise awareness and give people a slight feeling similar to those suffering from MND/ALS. And Macmillan can’t deny they have jumped on the bandwagon to raise money, yes of course charities should do all they can to raise money for good causes, but this should be done ETHICALLY, not by tricking people who are trying to do their bit to raise awareness about a terrible disease.

  23. Richard

    I am a great supporter of Macmillan, even being involved in a contract and see the great work you do. Sorry though, you have this gravely wrong. If I have just Googled ‘ice bucket challenge’ and got only one ad (from Macmillan), there is something wrong. Get innovative, don’t hijack other great ideas.

  24. Tom Dickerson

    You have tried to justify this by quoting “Criticism of Macmillan for ‘hijacking’ #IceBucketChallenge is nothing compared to bollocking they prob got for not hijacking #nomakeupselfie”. The key difference is that #nomakeupselfie was a hashtag without a home and was there to be picked up and turned into something good. People were posting pictures of themselves saying they were “raising awareness” of cancer, as if anyone has not heard of cancer!!! It was pure narcissism, fishing for compliments and convincing yourself you were being altruistic at the same time, until someone somewhere started to urge people to actually donate to cancer charities and then the money started to come in along with the stream of pictures.

    The ice bucket challenge is/was the #ALSicebucketchallenge, a hashtag that did belong to something. I feel that Macmillan have exploited the fact that ALS is MND in the UK, and that neither of these have much awareness. I read that Macmillan’s vast resources were used to pay so that the top Google search result for the term ‘ice bucket challenge’ was Macmillan’s page. Macmillan has hijacked a movement that belonged to another less well known charity of limited means, and I am disgusted by it.

  25. Vicky

    To me it’s not so much a case of you taking much needed funds away from a small charity that shocks me, it’s the fact you are stealing their awearness. Do you have any idea how hard it is telling people a loved one is dying from MND and then having to have a lengthy very difficult converstion about what MND is? But then what did I expect from a charity who cold called me, the day my mum was told she had MND, when I explained today is not a good time to be asking for money my mum has been told she has MND, the caller still went on to ask for money, three further times, despite my tears and pleas for her to stop and understand just how serious MND is.

  26. Steve

    To me, it’s almost like Macmillan sticking an MND sticker on their own collection box and then removing it once the box was full to reveal the Macmillan logo. Fantastic charity Macmillan, you really do supply true Angels to those suffering with cancer, however, let ALS/MND have their day.

  27. hallows

    At the end of the day most people had never heard of motor neuron disease compared to cancer and it was selfish to take it over as you seem to have done! Not on, get your own ideas!

  28. Flower22

    I have always had tremendous respect for Macmillan and all their efforts to raise funds for a most worthy cause…until now that is! I feel really sad that the attempts of the ALS/MND charities to not only raise vital funds but also the awareness of the condition have been diluted by what Macmillan have done which is not fair or ‘charitable’!!!!

    Personally I would have far more respect if Macmillan disclosed the amount of funds raised as a result of ‘their’ ice bucket challenge and then gave that to the MND Association (particularly as a result of Macmillans actions some people have needed up confused about who they have sent their donations to and some even thought Macmillan were doing this on behalf of the MNDA so not happy when they realised their donations had not gone where they intended). It is taking advantage in a quite underhand way.

    No one would feel aggrieved if Macmillan did a fundraising campaign of their own and sure that people would continue to make donations when it is done in a fair way eg the forthcoming coffee morning…how would you feel if people did a coffee morning but sent the funds raised elsewhere….

  29. Matt

    Which charity it goes to is a bit of a moot point in my opinion (although I’m in agreement with the majority, it feels a lot like what Macmillan have done in this instance is depressingly underhanded). What we should all be asking is exactly what percentage of the money we’re donating goes to pay for research and care and how much goes on things like the wages for PA and Marketing Execs working for these charities to organise fundraisers, advertising campaigns and PR exercises. I understand from speaking with a friend who works for a smaller charity that it can be as little as 10% of your donation goes to actually helping the people who need it. Apologies for the cynicism, it’s generally not in my nature, but it’s a point worth making I think.

  30. Sue Worbey

    Whilst I admire the valuable service that your charity provides, I make a point of never donating to charities that spend millions on television advertisments. My money is going to MNDA and to smaller charities nearer home in Cornwall.

  31. Andrea

    Amanda Neylon quotes “We’re trying to be bolder, we’re listening to what’s going on all over the world, and we’re responding more quickly than we have in the past”. Yes by piggybacking onto other charities ideas. You can’t stop people doing this and donating to you, but you have actively promoted it. Your lack of integrity has severely damaged your organisations reputation. From what I read over this blog, facebook and twitter, you have lost an exceptional amount of loyal supporters which at the end of the day will only harm those that rely on you. I would be looking for someones resignation over this and a public apology instead of constantly trying to defend your appauling actions. When should I be on the look out for your next appeal? The evening of Children in Need??

  32. Jim J

    Are your fundraising targets so high that you believe any marketing activity is acceptable? People are questioning your ethics as a marketing and social media team, including the trade press, and yet you continue. As a major UK cancer charity you have the ears and hearts of many donors. Use this wisely and demonstrate your talents as well as your amazing nurses do in their line of work.

  33. Benjamin Rombough


    This will not go away.I will chase this further!

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