Magazine

Game Changers | Good Deeds

An icy challenge and other groundbreaking ways to do good

Daring others to douse themselves inspired donations for ALS research while a student competition, an exercise program, and a Fidelity fund provided new avenues to help others.

The following people and organizations are on our list of 2015 Game Changers. They did extraordinary things last year, reshaping the way we live and work.

Honorees:

THE ICE BUCKET THAT RAINED MONEY

Dina Rudick/Globe staff/file
Pete Frates initially drew high-profile athletes to the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Boston College alum Pete Frates helped create a fund-raising phenom every nonprofit wants to replicate. The conceit was oddball: On film, drench yourself in icy water, then dare your friends to do the same or donate money to the ALS Association. But through serendipity and the power of social media, last summer’s Ice Bucket Challenge caught fire online, unleashing an unprecedented wave of charitable giving. Within six weeks, $115 million was donated; by comparison, the ALS Association’s entire budget the previous year was $20 million. That gusher of philanthropy triggered by Frates, who himself has ALS, has the nonprofit sector rethinking its approach to raising money.

WORKING OUT FOR FREE

It started with two ex-jocks running the stairs at Harvard Stadium. Now it’s an early-morning exercise movement with a cult-like following across the country. The November Project was merely a way for Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric to motivate each other to keep working out as cold weather hit in the fall of 2011. Then a few friends joined the former Northeastern University rowers. Then a few dozen. Then a few hundred.

Now they and their handpicked “tribe leaders” run free workout sessions three days a week, which are open to all fitness levels. The November Project has spread to 19 cities, up from 10 at the start of 2014, and Graham and Mandaric have passed off day-to-day leadership of the Boston group to focus on expansion.

BIG REWARDS FOR SOCIAL ENTERPRISE

Advertisement

A team of college students in India invented an inexpensive machine last year to take medical vital signs and produce risk profiles for patients with diabetes and hypertension in urban slums. Called “Dox-in-Box,” it won the Hult Prize. The reward: a million dollars.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Based in Cambridge, the Hult Prize has become one of the most prestigious student business competitions in the world. Each year the family of Bertil Hult, founder of EF Education First, provides seed money for one winning team to launch a company that makes money and solves social problems for poor communities at the same time. The number of applicants topped 20,000 in 2014, an all-time high.

The competition was founded in 2009 by Ahmad Ashkar, who developed the idea while a student at the Hult International Business School. “The investment is paying off,” Ashkar says. “In 2009, there was no activity around social enterprise. Now I’m getting invited weekly to speak on this topic.”

A CHARITABLE GIVING ALTERNATIVE

Fidelity Investments has turned into a charitable powerhouse and reshaped the way people give to social and community causes. Last year, Fidelity Charitable collected a record $4.4 billion in donations, rivaling traditional names such as United Way and the Salvation Army. Fidelity uses donor-advised funds, which allow donors to place money into accounts, take full deductions, and dole out the money over the course of years, or even generations. Even as they become a larger part of charitable giving, these donor-advised funds are controversial, and critics have argued that they delay money going directly to charities. Fidelity officials say that the funds make it easier to give and be more generous. Through them, Fidelity distributed $2.6 billion to more than 92,000 charities in 2014.

Capsules written by Deirdre Fernandes, Sacha Pfeiffer, Taryn Luna, and Callum Borchers. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.