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Not only is a viral campaign like the ice bucket challenge hard to replicate, Ms. Heisman said, but the struggle of ALS sufferers is not nearly as well known as other issues such as breast cancer or heart disease.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a deadly disease that affects the nervous system. Physicist Stephen Hawking suffers from the disease.

“The whole thing is making the case for support,” Ms. Heisman said. “Making the case with a story or an image, information that the donor gets about the cause, something emotionally moving for them. Really good story telling is what triggers really powerful philanthropy; the act of making it real.”

Perhaps no better example of this is the annual Jerry Lewis telethon to raise money for muscular dystrophy. The Labor Day fundraiser has raised more than $2 billion since it began in 1966.

To be sure, the ice bucket challenge isn’t the first viral campaign.

In the early 2000s, American Idol spearheaded “Idol Gives Back,” which raised millions of dollars for underprivileged children.

After the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the Red Cross used text messages as a way to donate money for aid.

Two years ago, the “Kony 2012” video took the Internet by storm. The video centered on African warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. Telling the story of the children kidnapped and forced into the army, the 28-minute video reached 100 million views in less than a week. Last year the Obama administration sent U.S. Special Operations to Africa in an effort to find Kony.

Whether another organization or even the ALS Association can replicate its success is anybody’s guess, said Mr. Tempel, of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“Other organizations trying to think how they might use this need to think very carefully about whether this could work for them if it’s not organic,” he said. “It has to be something that touches the organization’s mission, relates directly back, otherwise it could be seen as a gimmick and might not go anywhere.”

Despite the ice bucket challenge’s success, Mr. Tempel said: “This does not change the landscape of fundraising or the way organizations do their work,” though it does teach an important less that “social media can be a very useful tool to organizations.”

“I think for the ALS Association, one of the big questions they’re asking themselves is whether they can do this again a year from now,” Mr. Tempel said, a sentiment echoed by Ms. Heisman.

“I think the jury’s going to be out,” she said. “At some point this is going to wind down and then what’s going to happen next, what’s the next [viral campaign] going to look like. Is it next for the ALS Association or next for another charity, or is it going to be five years before something happens.”

Ms. Munk said the viral campaign has been both a windfall and a challenge the association is ready to face.

“I think that is a challenge that has been presented to us. It’s a positive challenge,” she said. “It’s clear the needle has moved as far as awareness of the disease. It’s up to us to keep that awareness level as high as it is this week and into the future.”