Y'all Ready For This?

Hey, remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? [go figure, by the way, it isn't popular the year Edmonton actually has a heat wave for a change... -ed] Anyways it's been a year now, and CNN has gotten around to asking where the money went.

More than 17 million people participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge to support ALS and other causes.

Nationally, 2.5 million people donated $115 million to the ALS Association. The organization says the event was probably the single largest episode of giving outside of a disaster or emergency.

So, whatever happened to all that money?
The good news is that the ALS Association is planning to spend only $5M of the $115M raised on what could be described as administration and overhead, a measly 4.34%. By comparison the Clinton Foundation spends 90% on administration and overhead, and even real charities like the BC SPCA, which got an A+ rating from MoneySense, spent 24.9% of the money raised on overhead. You also have to be careful in how you look at those numbers. Famously, the Edmonton Oilers were slammed for the amount of administration and overhead their charitable foundation spent, which was damning until you remembered that they run charitable dinners, dream home lotteries, and oh right, a 50/50.

All figures are in U.S. funds

The bad news is that it's a bit of a shell game. $77M was spent on "research" (hell, even CNN put that in quotes) which is a fairly straightforward funding method, going to organizations like the New York Genome Center, though you'd have to see what those organizations spend on overhead as well. (This is called the "United Way caveat emptor"). But then $8.5M went to local ALS chapters in the "patient and community services" bucket, and $10M to "public and professional education", mostly again to local ALS chapters. Which leads us to a memory test. Did you remember the warning articles last year about how little ALS chapters in general spend on non-administrative efforts? Okay, yes, most of the complaints were from "natural homeopathy" proponents and the ALSA debunked some of the loopier claims, but when snopes.com looked into the matter they determined that 11% went to administrative expenses and 16.5% to fundraising expenses. That means that ALSA is still spending roughly 27.5% on overhead in a non-icebucket year. That should go down with a huge spike in donations like the Ice Bucket Challenge does, but ALSA still spends money on overhead and administration.

It's ultimately deceptive to isolate the Ice Bucket Challenge money like that, and CNN probably should have done a better job cutting through the spin.