Social networking and slacktivists

Raising money through social networks is inherently unpredictable. Sometimes a message will resonate with the online hordes, and other times it will fall flat; in the same way that nobody can predict which YouTube video will go viral.

The question of whether the Internet has revolutionized activism and altruism, or whether its potential for nonprofits has been exaggerated, is a heated one among people in philanthropy. In a widely circulated article in The New Yorker magazine recently, the writer Malcolm Gladwell argued that social networks encourage people to express sympathy for various causes — solidarity with democracy activists in Iran or genocide victims in Darfur, for instance — but that Twitter and Facebook do not compel us to do anything practical beyond that, like giving money.

His claim was not novel. People who raise money online have a derisive term for the slackers who paper their Facebook walls and Twitter feeds with vociferous support for sympathetic causes but fail to do anything else to help. They’re called “slacktivists.”

Nonprofits who successfully raise money online say that the slacktivism problem is overblown. The organizations that can deliver say they are discovering that people do not remain slackers forever. In other words, they can be converted into donors, volunteers and even offline activists.

[The New York Times]

No comments: