We know that technology is changing the way we communicate and participate in society. Social media is altering how the world communicates. Supporters, donors and activists can participate in runs, walks or drives and garner support and sponsorship in advance. Or, they can choose not to leave the comfort of their office or home and support a cause or raise awareness through social media almost exclusively.
Last year’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge demonstrated this to the world. People were able to take a pass on donating to charity (although many did the challenge and donated) by dumping water on their heads, posting it on social media and nominating three more friends to take the challenge. It took no more than two minutes of their time to have fun, raise awareness and spread the word.
There is now a debate about slactivism and whether it helps or hurts society when people don’t have to ever leave their computer or mobile device to feel as if they made some difference. The question is if all of our sharing, tweeting and hashtagging is actually allowing people to simply take a pass on really engaging. They can have a perception of being involved, feel they are morally doing something positive and not do too much. It’s no longer necessary for people to show up in person, make a telephone call or do anything other than let their fingers do the typing.
Without debating the merits of slactivism, the fact of the matter is that it’s here. Nonprofits and social enterprises can use it to their advantage. Think about it. ALS experienced incredible brand awareness and an increase in funding of 3,500 percent. The year before the challenge during the same period, ALS raised $2.8 million. Last year they raised over $115 million. Over 1.2 million people participated in the challenge.
Those astronomical facts are incredible and it could not have happened without technology and social media. More than a million people who may never have heard of ALS learned about the organization. We know that a percentage of those who gave will give again this year. ALS was able to obtain new donors who may have never otherwise become familiar with the organization had it not been for the slactivism of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
In order to fulfill their missions, nonprofits need to build relationships with prospective donors and current donors. What slactivism shows us is that sometimes people will become engaged because of something that is new and fresh and piqued their interest.
Simplicity is key. In order for something to go viral, it has to be simple to understand. It also has to be fast and brief. Armchair activists are usually curating dozens upon dozens of tweets or posts across various social media platforms. This means they are giving any one item only seconds of their time. If it captures their attention, it has to get to the point very quickly in order for them to want to share.
I believe that nonprofits and social enterprises should also try to use humor a little more than they do. It’s something that is fresh and different, but it needs to be done with thought. Humor is a very powerful tool. As I wrote about previously and you can re-read here, humor was a thread in the very serious realities after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris earlier this year and in New York on Saturday Night Live after 9/11.
Sure, nonprofits and social enterprises want to build relationships with individuals and partners who engage in a conversation with them. But the very nature of conversation is changing and there is a part for slactivism that should be incorporated into the marketing and communications efforts of organizations in the social sector.
Author of, “The Rise and Fail of Charities In the 21st Century: How The Nonprofit World Is Changing And What You Can Do To Be Ready.” Get your copy here.
© 2015 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.