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There’s a great debate within the charitable sector around the value of a “Like” or if it really helps a cause in the long run. This is usually a debated around “slacktivism” and a recent study has brought it to the surface again. The study finding is summarized here:

“Our research shows that if people are able to declare support for a charity publicly in social media it can actually make them less likely to donate to the cause later on.”

This seemingly confirms the great fear that nonprofits are giving people a good feeling without receiving a donation or the cash they need to survive in exchange (or at least not right away). Numerous studies have shown that when we give to charity we get a positive reward where dopamine levels (pleasure transmitters) are in the sex and chocolate range (not together… no charity can make you feel that good). What this slacktivism study suggests is that we can get a somewhat similar feeling only without needing to part with our own resources. That’s the great fear around slacktivism.

And that is a real fear, but fear of slacktivism is not a reason to avoid Facebook and social media or online fundraising. Connecting with people online, where they are and interact with other people, is essential. Here’s three ideas you should consider and keep in mind when thinking about “slacktivism”.

1. Longer Term Plan.

This study only covers the short term response of people who feel charitable. Because they weren’t actually parting with resources my belief is their good feeling wears down faster than if they had given something of significant (time or money) and are therefore more ready to get that feeling again the next time around. So as long as you don’t always ask for “slacktivist” actions you could very well be training them, and their brains, to want that reward feeling and do what it takes to get it back. If this in fact happens over the long term you can not only develop a donor but a longer term donor, one who gives regularly and likes the feeling of giving to you.

2. Deepening a Relationship.

How many of your best friends on social networks did you meet first on a social network? I’m guessing it is relatively few. Our best friends on social media are our best friends in real life. Social media allows us to be more connected to more of our friends over greater distances like never before. The same is true with charities. If you have donors who attend an event, give for some other reason, etc. and then you ask them to “Like” you on Facebook, you can, in theory, continue to deepen that relationship you may already have in ways, and at scale, like you could not previously do.

3. Recency Illusion or Top of Mind.

In the world of CPC, Google Analytics, big data and being able to measure seemingly everything what gets lost is some “old school” thinking like being “top of mind” or tapping into the recency illusion (where you are seemingly popping up all over the place now). We spend 9 hours a month on social network sites alone each and every month so if you are on Facebook and have some fans and Likes, you have a better chance of popping up and being present in a place where your donors and their networks are. When your mail appeal comes in the Spring and they have only opened one of your monthly emails they may be more familiar with you and what you’re up to because of a few Facebook posts in between.

I’m not advocating for “slacktivism” and think the charity and how you communicate to your supporters plays a big role in this as well (are you saying “liking” your page or post is helping the cause or merely “liking” your page or post that is associated with your cause for example). But our job in fundraising and marketing for charities is to help make people’s lives better – making supporters feel good about what they are contributing towards as well as the people our programs serve. So while getting easy actions on social media may not be the best or most productive thing you’re supporters can do, if it makes them feel good and your cause is associated with that it can’t be a horrible thing either.

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  • Randy Patrick

    I just stumbled across this blog…which probably says more about my failure to take the time to find and subscribe to relevant, informative, thought provoking material than about any failure of your SEO or how well known this blog is!

    I was surprised, though, to find I’m the first and only comment on such a timely topic – especially since my marketing and development friends and I have discussed the monetary “value” of Facebook “Likes” ad nauseam. After first being excited about the growing number of Likes my organization’s Facebook page ( was getting, we discovered they really had no value (from the perspective of being the Development Officer).

    For example, during one matching grant challenge, we were short a few hundred dollars with only a few hours left in the challenge. I broke down what it would take from a reasonable number of our 4,000+ Facebook fans to donate to reach that goal…and it wasn’t much…and posted an appeal along wth a picture of one of our cute puppies. A few “liked” the post (I suspect it was the puppies doing) but none donated. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Not even a “Share.” A few months later I repeated the experiment with nearly the same results.

    My take away: Facebook and Social Media in general are time eaters and not a serious way of engaging these strangers in a meaningful way. HOWEVER, it seems that our culture now requires a Social media presence – and plenty of it – to lend the appearance of legitimacy and activity. But, again, if the person who uses that as a measure of legitimacy and outcome isn’t stirred to action, it’s no measure at all
    This sayeth me. ;)

  • bradyjosephson

    Thanks Patrick. Well I’m glad you found this site and post either way. I think a key point in this discussion is that where people transact isn’t always how they interact. For example, this study didn’t look at the average lifetime value or donation of Facebook followers vs. non, but simply likelihood to make a donation after liking a page or taking a small action. And Facebook isn’t where people are necessarily hanging out to find causes, make donations, etc. but rather connect with friends, get information and so on. So I don’t think we should value Facebook and other social media sites based on how few people donate from those places. And the bigger concept is that when people get a high for an action they may not be likely to take a bigger action because they already got their ‘high’. That has implications not just for Facebook but for all kinds of ‘slacktivist’ strategies. Thanks for reading Randy.

  • Karen Mieses-Gonzalez

    First I would like to apologize in advance if I sound ignorant…
    I came across the word “slacktivism” by accident, first time I had ever come across the word so I wanted to know what it meant.
    I was comparing prices and went into Amazon and there I got a pop up asking to pick a charity of my choice and out of whatever I spent they would take a percentage out and donate it to that charity. By accident I got rid of the pop up without picking a charity, so I googled “Amazon Smile” and came across a few articles, the one I picked was talking about “slacktivism” so I decided to click on the highlighted word that brought me to this article.
    The first article I read sounded like they were against it and this one in favor but leaning towards “neutral”.
    Going to my point, I suffer from chronic pain and I am in a wheelchair, just to mention of a few of the stuff that keeps me at home and not being an “activist” but a “slacktivist”. I am a prisoner in my own home and I am tired of tv shows, re-runs and now I am even watching sitcoms from the 60s and 70s and thinking “boy we have it easy now” when I compared their lack of microwaves, cellphones and other gadgets that make our lives more comfortable.
    I sign petitions online, “share”, forward or copy and paste them in all my social media pages, just to spread the word.
    I used update Facebook every 20 minutes of everything I was doing during the day but since I got sick I retired from Facebook and only occasionally post pictures in Instagram and linked them to Twitter and Facebook to avoid the process of doing it individually.
    The point is that my “condition” has turned me into a “slacktivist” but I would like to know what an organization gets per likes they get.
    What is the “monetary value” the Likes organizations gets in Facebook?
    Sorry and I hope you understand my ramblings, you know no one to talk to….