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.