Australian motor neurone disease organisations are converting the global ice bucket challenge into cold hard cash.

Local motor neurone disease organisations are reaping the benefits of the global “ice bucket challenge” sweeping social media.

The phenomenon began in the US to raise awareness about the disease, which causes muscles to shrink and weaken.

It has since spread virally on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, with various luminaries from Oprah to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg all posting videos of themselves being drenched with buckets of iced water.

Participants who complete the challenge can nominate others to get wet and donate a small sum to charities or researchers.

Those who aren’t willing to go under the bucket are encouraged to donate a larger sum.

Motor Neurone Disease Australia has received about $10,000 over the past eight days, says national executive director Carol Birks.

That’s about 10 times the figure the organisation would normally receive around this time of year, especially so soon after the end of the financial year when charitable donations tend to drop across the board.

“It’s just incredible,” Ms Birks said.

“And, importantly, it’s raising awareness of this disease because not many people know about it.”

State branches of the charity said they hadn’t noticed a spike in donations.

“But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to,” said Queensland branch CEO Cheryl Miller, who said there had been an increase in visitors to the website.

Despite the success, differences in terminology between Australia and the rest of the world continued to present a barrier, Ms Miller said.

In the US and elsewhere, motor neurone disease is known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or, colloquially, Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the famous American baseball player of the 1920s and 30s.

Australians might not recognise that the diseases are one and the same.

“If we said we’re trying to raise awareness about ALS, 99.99 per cent of people in Australia would say ‘what’s that?’.

“If you said MND – motor neurone disease – it’s a different thing altogether.”