Today’s guest post comes to us from Dan Morrison, Founder and CEO of Citizen Effect who is driven by the idea that anyone can make a real and significant impact in the world. Citizen Effect provides everyday citizens the tools and networks they need to work directly with communities in need around the world.
I love the word “slacktivism.” It is a classic oxymoron. The word conjures up the image of a male college student (sorry guys) sitting on his couch playing Grand Theft Auto and texting “90999” to support Haiti Relief in the five seconds between games.
And that is a great thing. When I was in college, the college quad was the realm of the activist who wanted to save the world. The dorm room was the realm of the slacker who could care less. Technology has now allowed slackers with a conscience to get involved in the causes they believe in but are too lazy to get up off the couch and support.
Slacktivists are an entirely new market segment that we, as cause marketers, are all salivating over, because so many slacktivists are so willing to procrastinate by picking up their mobile phone or going online to give and spread the word about our cause. Slacktivists are the definition of the long tail and cause marketers are going to bed every night trying to dream up schemes about how to get 1 million slacktivists to text them $10. Unfortunately, for most, that is never going to happen.
But I don’t blame the slacktivists – they are who they are, and are giving in a way that is comfortable to them. I blame marketers, like myself, who scheme about how to
change slacktivists into the fundraising juggernaut of the 21st century, rather than focusing on giving them what they want – an easy, effortless way to give and get on with their lives.
Slacktivism emerged because social media tools gave slackers with a heart an opportunity to get involved on their own terms. It is a mistake to think that slacktivists are just lazy. Some are too busy or uncomfortable getting involved with a cause in a public manner. Texting, tweeting and social media gave them the ability to give during the limited time they had or provided the social cover they needed to get involved. So I think we should ask not what the slacktivist can do for us, but what we can do for the slacktivist.
For the slacktivists that is more slacker than activist, we have to give them more easy ways to give. Texting for Haiti was simple and you can expect organizations, big and small, to leverage text-to-give programs at the next fundraiser you attend (check out Causecast’s mobile text2give program). And suggestion to the Greenpeace volunteers lining the streets of DC – ditch the long schpeel and just ask people to text you $10 to save the planet. And next time there is a global catastrophe, let’s make it even easier – “Tweet 90999.” The more tools we can develop to integrate giving into our daily lives, the more slacktivists will give.
But I cannot resist the temptation that there are slacktivists that are activists just needing the right excuse to get involved. They may not be many, but are a tantalizing segment because converting one slacktivist that texted $10 to an activist that raises $5,000 is well worth the investment. But how do we move from mobile and online giving to offline doing?
At the threat of stating the obvious, give slacktivists the same social media tools you use to entice them to give. Nonprofits spend too much time trying to figure out how to use social media tools to entice new donors to give them $10, when they should be figuring out how to empower their existing donors to leverage social media tools to raise money for them. It is the classic “don’t ask a man to give $10; teach him to fundraise $100” scenario. Because asking ten people to raise $10 from ten people ($1,000) is much more efficient than ask 10 people to give you $10 ($100). You win even if only two people achieve their goal ($200).
We can also learn a lesson from why texting 90999 worked for Haiti – it was easy, new and fun. People hate raising money – it is as stressful as moving and getting divorced. But if you give someone the control to choose their own project and empower them to fundraise while doing something they love, you can unlock the activist within. At Citizen Effect we have had people of all ages that never raised money before raise thousands of dollars with chili-fests, yoga workshops, cross-country bike rides, swim-a-thons, and simple online campaigns. How? By providing them a platform to market, promote and fundraise for the cause of their choice. And most importantly, allowing them to leverage their true social network – their trusted group of friends, family, and co-workers.
So what do we do with the slacktivist? For most, we continue to cater to their need for fast, easy ways to give. And for those few with the activist living within, empower them with the tools they need to engage their trusted social networks doing what they love to do. A Grand Theft Auto tournament for Haiti is a great place to start.