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Allyson Kapin 6 min read

Setting the Record Straight on the Slactivism Debate

There’s been a long and heated debate in the nonprofit community about the value of clicktavism – where people click a link to take an action such as signing a petition or liking a nonprofit’s page on Facebook. Some vocal folks in the community think that’s bogus and not real activism. I get it. I have written on Frogloop expressing my own concerns about social media’s role in making a real impact on social change

But here’s the deal. Providing potential supporters with easy ways to get involved with an organization (such as signing an online petition) so that they can test the waters and get to know a nonprofit is a tactic that every organization should be utilizing. Why? Because movements comprised of advocates and donors is about building solid relationships and trust. And that takes time. A lot of time. Would you marry someone you just met last night? No, of course not. Relationships take time. The same goes for building movements. You can’t expect to organize people and turn them into super activists without creating a proper ladder of engagement.

Katya Andresen of Network for Good, wrote a an article over at Mashable about some great research conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Worldwide. The Dynamics of Cause Engagement study, which surveyed 2000 adults in 2010, found that people who frequently engaged in promotional social activity were:

  • As likely as non-social media promoters to donate money.
  • Twice as likely to volunteer their time.
  • Twice as likely to take part in events like charity walks.
  • More than twice as likely to buy products or services from companies that supported the cause.
  • Three times as likely to solicit donations on behalf of their cause.
  • More than four times as likely to encourage others to sign a petition or contact political representatives.

Andresen also had some good tips to share about building relationships with new supporters.

  • Don’t stereotype slacktivists. They are not lazy people. They are testing the waters. If you cultivate them right, they can become great activists and donors.
  • Social champions have real value. They are social people who can help spread the word about your campaigns and programs.
  • Slacktivists are like the rest of us. Andresen is spot on. Everyone “exhibits varying degrees of commitment to different causes. It’s up to the non-profit to see slacktivist action as a sign of interest, and then to deepen that interest with strong engagement.”

Do you think this ends the debate?


Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.