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Follow-up to the End of “Slacktivism” Webinar by Spencer Whelan


Below is a follow-up to the questions submitted during the June 7 webinar on motivating donors to take real action online with Spencer Whelan, Director of Marketing and Communications, KIMBIA. To view or hear a live recording of the presentation, please click here.

First, thanks to everyone at GuideStar for providing these fantastic Webinar opportunities. We at KIMBIA really enjoyed the opportunity to present the issue of “slacktivism,” and we received a lot of great feedback. I’d like to take some time to follow-up on some of the key themes and specific questions we received after the Webinar.

Defining “slacktivism”:

“Slacktivism” is a primarily pejorative term (a combination of “slacking” and “activism”) used to describe the actions of people who appear to be doing good or supporting a good cause, but in reality are doing the bare minimum required to keep up the appearance of action.

Slacktivism is nothing new. It can manifest itself in many forms, (ribbons, bracelets, etc…) but recently it has taken on new life within online social media. Updating your profile picture, forwarding a cause-based email, changing your Facebook status or simply clicking the “like” button are the new “slacktivist” activities of a generation. Some people have updated the terminology by calling it “clicktivisim.”

Is slacktivism a bad thing?

Creative terms like “Slacktivism” are both good and bad. The benefit is that it helps people understand a relatively complex psychological & behavioral process by distilling it down to a common vernacular. On the other hand, labeling a complex process can often times elevate the issue to a higher level than it deserves.

I think that is the case here. Slacktivism is not a root problem or some deeply inherent flaw in the make-up of an entire generation of people. Instead, slacktivism is a symptom or something larger — showing us that perhaps philanthropy has failed to react to the changing nature of technology and peoples’ desire to engage online.

Why is piracy in the recording industry a good comparison to the slacktivism within the philanthropic world?

Fourteen years ago, a seismic shift occurred in the world of recorded music. Napster, along with various other ‘file sharing’ services came onto the scene and provided a more efficient discovery and delivery system for music. The consumer market embraced the new technology while the music industry did not. As a result, digital piracy became a common practice.

It eventually took a paradigm shift from the marketplace to realize the people were not to blame. The technology and simple processes of file-sharing systems were driving factors attracting people towards piracy. They realized most people actually would be happy to pay $1 for a single downloaded song if only the industry would allow it. Thus iTunes and other services were born and finally the tide of pirated music has been turned.

I believe this story is relevant to the world of philanthropy because it is going through a similar phase right now with slacktivisim. Giving online is a hard process in most cases… significantly more difficult than clicking a “like” button. The processes and deliverables are similar. With both donations and music, you usually decide to act when you are emotionally inspired. You almost always make these decision while you are in the context of hearing a song, or listening to a story of need. Also, if the person can receive the social benefits of doing good without the action, then (just like with piracy) they will most definitely take that route. Slacktivism is basically just the piracy of philanthropic karma.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon us as advocates for philanthropy to find ways to meet donors where they are.We need to recognize that giving online should be simple, and giving opportunities should be plentiful and placed in-context of donors’ inspiration. If we take these steps, I believe we can turn this tide in the same way the music industry has.

How should small and medium size non-profits approach Facebook and Twitter for fundraising?

First and foremost, Twitter and Facebook are communications networks. That is to say that the primary actions that take place are the posting and reading of messages, pictures, etc… To date these channels haven’t proven themselves to be majors centers of fundraising activity. In fact, a recent web usability study from the Nielsen Norman group has confirmed that people look to Facebook as a secondary engagement point behind a non-profit’s full website.

This confirms that people use Facebook and Twitter to promote the “social benefit” part of the giving process. So, its important to understand the context of social media and realize that it is preferable to have messages like, “I just gave and so can you”, rather than messages simply showing that someone has “liked” an organization. Peer behavior can be a powerful force, so make sure your tools encourage social messaging after a donation takes place.

For more information about creating content on Facebook for your non-profit, there are some great resources available at For information about how KIMBIA integrates donation forms and messaging directly into Facebook, email us at

Links mentioned in the webinar.

Finally, below are links to some of the case studies and campaign examples we used during the Webinar. Again, if you have any questions about the execution of some of these campaigns, feel free to email us at

Taylor Swift Tornado Relief Donations (Website, Facebook, & Mobile):—-taylor-swift-fundraiser-for-tornado-victims/

Dallas Vs Miami: YMCA giving challenge on Facebook:

Community Foundation for Greater New Haven 2010 Challenge:

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee 2010 Flood Relief:

American Heart Association Go Red for Women: Free Dress Pin on Facebook:

Digital Music trends – The shift from piracy to paid digital singles:

lindsay-nichols.jpgThe preceding is a guest post by Lindsay Nichols, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at America’s Charities, the leader in workplace giving and philanthropy. As a member of the organization’s senior leadership team, Lindsay guides and oversees the strategy and execution of all marketing and communications efforts with a major emphasis on strategy and tactics that support increased growth for the organization. Lindsay has been quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chronicle of Philanthropy, NonProfit Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Public Radio, Dallas Morning News, and more.

Topics: Impact Webinars GuideStar