The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Why It’s Time to Get Over ‘Slacktivism’

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Cone Communications Digital Activism Study

Image: Cone Communications

It’s easy to write off the small online actions of “slacktivists” as passive behavior that won’t make much of a difference, but digital activists can turn into donors, advocates, and major supporters over time. Late last year, Cone Communications released their Digital Activism Study which reveals insights on digital consumer behavior when it comes to supporting causes online. A few nuggets:

    • 58% of Americans believe sharing information about a cause online is an effective form of advocacy.


    • 52% use social media to discuss issues they care about and believe their online activity makes a meaningful difference.


    • Of those surveyed who made a donation in the last 12 months, more people gave online (27%) than regular mail (23%).


  • Americans are most willing to take online actions that have a direct impact on an issue – such as voting (71%), signing petitions (70%) and learning about changes they can make in their everyday lives (70%).


But do all of these micro-actions really add up to anything meaningful for your cause or do they simply replace more significant contributions? founder Ben Rattray recently challenged organizations to look to results before dismissing online activity as slacktivism.

“I think the measure of the effectiveness of online action isn’t whether it’s easy to do, it’s whether it actually accomplishes a specific goal,” Rattray observed.

Cone’s study revealed that 63% of Americans they are more inclined to donate or support a cause in other ways after learning about the issue online. While these initial online gifts may not be large ones, consider that small dollar serial sharers are often able to influence others to contribute a cumulative total that goes well beyond the individual act. This multiplier effect is why peer-to-peer fundraising can be so powerful.

So, how do you make the most of these digital do-gooders?

Open the door.
Embrace and enable these so-called slacktivists by lowering the barrier of entry to participate in your cause. This means making actions easy to understand, easy to do, and easy to afford. Remember: these supporters are not likely to be your high-dollar donors—yet. Offer ubiquitous opportunities to get involved and make it easy by giving your fans prepared tweets, Facebook updates, and email copy to use.

Hoist your billboard.
Cone’s research did find that there can be a gap between intent and action when it comes to supporting causes online. Organizations need to adapt their calls to action to match digital expectations. To do this, make your ask bold, concrete, and compelling. Your messages should clearly underscore a sense of urgency and illustrate the impact a donor can have. You’ll have better luck capitalizing on the desire to help when you script the actions you want people to take.

Clear a path.
Supporters who take a small action are more likely to take additional, larger actions over time—but it’s up to you to clear a path for them to do so. This means organizations should have a plan to build relationships with these digital activist and encourage them to take the next step to more involvement with your cause. Remember: depending on how they came to your organization, these donors, petition signers, or social media warriors may need an additional introduction to your work and why their support matters.


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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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