We all saw the Ice Bucket Challenge storm the headlines, but did you know how the ICED55 JustTextGiving code started? Its origin might surprise you...

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Unless you’ve been on a complete social media boycott for the past few months, you’ve probably heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge. The unstoppably popular charity campaign, which saw millions of us pour freezing water on our heads and nominate friends to do the same, has raised millions for Motor Neurone Disease charities in the UK and US alike.

 

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The Ice Bucket Challenge was a phenomenon that won’t be forgotten in a hurry, and we’re proud to have played a part in it thanks to JustTextGiving. Keep going, just click here!
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Here in the UK, you probably already know that the Ice Bucket Challenge raised huge sums through people texting donations to the JustTextGiving code ‘ICED55′. But what you may not know is that that code wasn’t set up by a charity – it belongs to one determined fundraiser from West Yorkshire.

What’s it like to personally help raise over £3 million for charity? Read on to find out…

Getting started

paula maguire“I do everything in memory of my uncle,” says Paula Maguire, midwife, mother and serial fundraiser from the north of England. “He was diagnosed with MND in June 2009, and was given 2-5 years to live. Unfortunately, he died in August the same year. At that time we’d heard of Motor Neurone Disease, but didn’t really know what it was – by the time we’d just about got our heads round his diagnosis, it was already too late.

“So the day after he died I started fundraising, and told myself I’ll always fundraise for Motor Neurone Disease.”

Paula and her family have tirelessly raised money and awareness for the Motor Neurone Disease Association through charity runs, events and more since then, so when she saw the Ice Bucket Challenge taking off in the US, she knew exactly what she had to do:

“On Friday 8 August, we’d been watching the news and saw the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge…”

“On Friday 8 August, we’d been watching the news and saw the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in America; it made the news over here because President Obama had been challenged. In the UK, ALS is known as Motor Neurone Disease, but we had a look and couldn’t find anyone doing the same thing for MND. We knew we needed to do it.

“I went straight on to JustGiving and set up a dedicated page. On that page there was a link to set up a JustTextGiving code, and because I know how successful text donations can be, I set that up too. We came up with ‘ICED’, and 55, which is supposed to represent ‘£5′.” Just like that, ICED55 was born. “I made a donation to test that it worked,” Paula explains, “and I set it all live on the 10th of August. I got my husband to do the first one and put it all over Facebook, asking friends and family to do the same.”

Getting bigger

“Initially, I put a target of £500,” Paula says. “At the end of the first week we were at about £470, but then we hit Twitter with a vengeance. I took two weeks off work and just lived on Twitter, tweeting the challenge to every celebrity I could think of, starting with those who I knew had a connection to MND.”

Paula’s tweeting soon paid off. With one celebrity endorsement under its belt, ICED55 began to grow:

“Good Morning Britain’s Charlotte Hawkins did it, and she challenged the team on This Morning. From that moment, in that second week, it really started spiralling beyond my friends and family, and going viral. On 19 August our total was about £3000 – which was way more than we ever thought we’d raise – but it was a couple of days after that when the Motor Neurone Disease Association really got behind it. They got Benedict Cumberbatch, their patron, to do it. He did a fantastic video…”

 

 

“It was when I saw my JustTextGiving text code on that video,” Paula tells us, “floating there in a text bubble, that I just thought: ‘Oh my god’. It just grew from there.”

Getting famous

“Between the 20 and 23 August a lot of big UK celebrities were using my text number,” Paula explains. “I never would have imagined Robbie Williams would be giving out my JustTextGiving text code!”

With celebrities jumping on board, icing themselves and nominating other household names, it didn’t take long for the UK arm of the Ice Bucket Challenge to dominate Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the news. Paula tells us she soon became addicted to checking and rechecking her JustGiving page, amazed at the sheer amount of cash that came flooding in:

“I was working over the bank holiday weekend, but I checked the page a couple of times during one of my 30 minute breaks, and in that 30 minute period the total went up by roughly £30,000 – and that was at two o’clock in the morning. That following week, on the Tuesday, the total hit £1 million, and it hit £2 million the following morning. In 24 hours we’d raised over a million pounds.”

 

 

At the time of writing, Paula’s page has raised a total of nearly £4 million, and she explains that a huge majority of that money has come from text donations:

“Most people are using text donations; the difference between that and donations through the web page is massive At the moment the total is £3,975,000 – of that, £3,733,000 are from texts.” So how does it feel to be in charge of a fundraising account that’s garnered so much money for such a good cause?

“It was a little bit overwhelming to start off with – there have been lots of tears every time the total hit another level.”

“I feel proud now,” Paula says, “but it was a little bit overwhelming to start off with – there have been lots of tears every time the total hit another level. At £10,000, I was just refreshing the page every few minutes. We all went completely mad at that milestone, but it was only a six days later that we hit a million. It’s slowing down a little bit, but we’re still raising about £4,000 a day, and that’s still amazing – that’s more than the MND charity has ever had on a daily basis. But it’s not just about the money; it’s about raising awareness.

“So many more people know what Motor Neurone Disease is now, whereas they might not have done last month.

“A lot of people have told me that they’ve now been inspired to do fundraising things and to help raise money for MND,” She reveals. “The MND community has been thanking me and saying what a great job I’ve done, but for a long time I was telling them I hadn’t done anything – I only made a number and set up a page!

“But when I look back, it’s only now that I can appreciate the amount of work I put into it – through tweeting and spreading the word – and think ‘wow, we started that’. I do feel very proud.”

Could you help raise millions? If Paula’s story has inspired you to see just what a JustTextGiving text code can help achieve, head to justgiving.co.uk to set up one of your own. If you’d like to help Paula’s cause, you can text ICED55 £5 to 70070. Paula’s longstanding personal JustTextGiving code, meanwhile, is PMND99, and her daughter’s is KMND96 – both of which raise cash for the MND Association.