Should you take the ice-bucket challenge?

Like most people, I occasionally give to charity and sponsor friends who take part in sponsored runs or cycle rides. I’ve even done some fundraising myself. However, I’m not a big fan of these big collective events where everyone is ‘encouraged’ to grow a moustache or quit drinking for a month, and then brag about it on Facebook.

My objection is that they are more about self-promotion than the specific cause. So I’m glad the current ‘ice bucket’ craze, where people either have to donate money to any charity supporting people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or post a video of themselves being drenched, has led other people to admit similar feelings.

Rachel Johnson is one of them. Writing in the Daily Mail, she doesn’t think that the celebrities taking part “should get away with saying this is all in the name of charity as opposed to self-promotion”.

In her view, “they should admit that they just couldn’t resist partaking in the wet T-shirt competition that is crazily sweeping the celebrity world”. Noting that the US State Department has decided “to ban its diplomats from taking up the ice bucket challenge”, she just wishes that “everyone else could get the memo too”.

If you follow the rules of the challenge strictly, only those who decline to be soaked in a bucket of ice-cold water have to make a donation to charity. As Michael Hogan points out in The Daily Telegraph, this means that “the more people who take up the challenge, the fewer donations”.

Of course, most people appearing in videos also end up making a contribution. However, it’s a safe bet that “many participants are probably spending more on bagged ice and buckets than they’re donating to ALS causes”.

The Guardian’s Steve Rose wonders whether “the craze has reached tipping point”. He notes that in drought-ridden California, there is a growing backlash against “companies dousing their staff en masse in hundreds of gallons of icy water”. There’s been a similar backlash in one Chinese province where water is scarce.

Meanwhile, “doctors around the world have warned of risks to elderly people, expectant mothers and people with heart conditions”.

But maybe I’m being too harsh. Rose’s colleague Suzanne McGee agrees that it would be great if people donated without such campaigns. But “the ALS Association has been around since 1985, sitting there and waiting for people to send it the money”, without notable success. Maybe we’re “programmed to respond to just this kind of stunt”.

The bottom line is that over $40m has been raised so far, which means that the ALS Association will be able to “do much, much more for its beneficiaries”.

Perhaps sceptics like myself should consider William Oremus’s “no ice bucket challenge”. Slate’s technology writer suggests a few simple rules: “do not fetch a bucket, fill it with ice, or dump it on your head” and “do not film yourself or post anything on social media”.

Instead, you should “just donate the damn money, whether to the ALS Association or to some other charity of your choice”.

Tabloid money: William Hague makes a stand against himself

• I spend “half my life on a train,” writes Sun columnist Katie Hopkins. So it’s not surprising that the 3.5% hike in the cost “of standing outside some stinking toilets for two hours” doesn’t “fill me with joy”.

“Increasing the cost of trying to get to work goes against everything I believe in”. If politicians “were made to fork out for their own first-class fares”, they “would understand how much it pains the rest of us to pay through the nose”.

• William Hague voted for government reforms to the NHS. However, he recently organised a protest meeting against cuts to local hospital services “and then has the nerve to claim expenses for it”, says the Daily Mirror. The paper suggests “he refunds the cash and knocks on the Downing Street door of David Cameron when the PM’s back from his holidays”.

If this doesn’t work, “Hague should put his money where his mouth is by quitting the Cabinet and standing down now as an MP – not wait until the general election”. The fact is, “Hague is a hyprocrite”.

• I would “have given my right arm to see Kate Bush in concert,” writes the Daily Mirror’s Carole Malone. However, she is annoyed at the singer for “asking fans not to take photos at her comeback gigs”. After all, the tickets “have been changing hands at a grand a time… if you pay that kind of money you should be entitled to take a few photos of your idol”.

• “It’s no exaggeration to say that a change in the debt recovery powers being given to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) goes to the very heart of the citizen’s relationship with the state,” says Stephen Pollard in the Daily Express. The new rules “allow the taxman to take whatever money he says we owe in tax direct from our bank account or Isa”.

This turns HMRC “into a judge in its own cause” – making an accusation “and then being given the power to act on it without any check or accountability”. Yet “anyone who has had even basic dealings with HMRC knows that it gets things wrong. A lot of things.”

• Stay up to date with MoneyWeek: Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Google+

FREE daily investment email from MoneyWeek
Receive our thought-provoking investment email Money Morning, every weekday morning, plus occasional promotions & become a smarter investor.

Please enter a valid email address

To sign-up enter your email address.

MoneyWeek magazine

Latest issue:

Magazine cover
In the balance

How May 2015 could hit your pocket

The UK's best-selling financial magazine. Take a FREE trial today.
Claim 4 FREE Issues

Russell Napier: deflation is coming – hold on to your cash

Financial historian Russell Napier talks to Merryn Somerset Webb about the next deflationary bust – why it's coming, what it means for you, and how you can survive it.


Which investment platform?

When it comes to buying shares and funds, there are several investment platforms and brokers to choose from. They all offer various fee structures to suit individual investing habits.
Find out which one is best for you.


27 November 1924: Macy's first Thanksgiving Day parade

On this day in 1924, New York department store Macy's held its first Thanksgiving Day parade. It would soon become a city institution, kicking off the run-up to Christmas.