6 Ways Volunteer Managers Can Curb Slacktivism

6 Ways Volunteer Managers Can Curb Slacktivism

Guest post by Kayla Matthews

Everyone knows someone who’s a “slacktivist” — a portmanteau of the words slacker and activism. These are folks who believe in being an activist but have a tendency to showcase passive behavior. Slacktivism is almost impossible to resist — it’s easy, it makes people feel good about themselves, and it requires practically no personal commitment. Must be nice, right?

While it may appear that slacktivists aren’t doing anything concrete to help the causes they support, some slacktivism can create real change in your organization. To engage slacktivists in promoting your work, you might have to get a little savvier with your slacktivist marketing.

Read on for ideas on how to make slacktivism — and slacktivists —  work for you.

  1. Make It Easy and Add Food!

Above all, people will help when it’s easy to do so. For slacktivists that don’t like to leave their homes, create online group chat opportunities through platforms like Slack (no pun intended) where you can discuss a specific project that needs volunteers. End the group chat by having people sign up for specific tasks — like designing flyers, researching contacts, etc. Keep the projects on a cloud-based visible task list and create an environment where people are publically thanked for accomplishing the pieces of the project they sign-up for. Or, split an existing opportunity up into smaller, bite-sized tasks that don’t take long to complete and post those new opportunities on VolunteerMatch.

You can also consider holding a meeting at your local library in the evening or on a weekend so people don’t have to miss work time to participate. Follow the same practice of having volunteer sheets or a collaborative online space where you’ll follow-up with specifics, or build these events around a specific project everyone can help with that night. Make events family-friendly if possible and serve food. If you serve free food, people will come. There is an 11 percent increase in happiness in employees who are offered free food at work versus those who aren’t. If it helps, find ways to make people excited about coming to volunteer.

  1. Make It Count

One thing slacktivism does well is generate financial contributions. It’s probably one of the cheapest, most effective ways for a nonprofit to engage this cohort. You can send volunteers out to stand by the road and ask for donations from passing cars or you can appeal to slacktivists online with a pop-up on your web page that asks for a donation as small as the price of a cup of coffee. Even better, your organization can partner with a larger company to have a portion of their business sales donated to your charity. People who do business with that company can be fundraisers without putting forth any extra effort.

One example is Amazon Smile. Customers select a nonprofit to support and a portion of their eligible Amazon goes directly to that organization. It’s easy and they don’t have to think much about it. In fact, Amazon will even ask if customers want to be redirected to Amazon Smile after they sign up. While we can’t all go after the big guys like Amazon, a strategy like this — even at the local level — could be realistic and effective.

  1. Spread the Word

Another thing slacktivism is great for is spreading information. Want a few million people to know about your fundraising event? Sharing it on social media is your best bet. If you can get the attention of just one celebrity or influencer, then millions of people will see your efforts. Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge?

While it’s difficult to pin down a specific strategy for getting that initial influencer’s attention, examples like the ALS challenge prove that it is possible and, with a compelling enough fundraiser or awareness campaign, it can happen.

One of the more recent slacktivist activities that got the word out about a cause was the safety pin campaign. Following President Trump’s victory in the 2016 United States presidential election, people wore safety pins to show solidarity with groups they felt might be marginalized by the new Commander-in-Chief’s  policies.

Wearing safety pins didn’t accomplish much, however, one thing the movement did accomplish was connecting people. Many knew what it meant when they saw others wearing safety pins. Although opinions differed on the validity of the movement, the safety pin suddenly became the new must-have accessory for making a statement.

  1. Elicit an Emotional Response

People won’t be moved to do things they don’t have to unless they’re emotionally invested. Animal rescues sometimes leverage love and cuteness to stir emotions, while foster care agencies may use sadness and guilt to get volunteers to invest, and protests try to create a combination of righteous hope and empowerment. Getting people emotionally invested in your cause is what keeps them coming back.

A simple solution to get emotional investment from slacktivists is to find common ground.The people who are likely to act with slacktivism are those who already agree with your general proposition. This agreement with your cause makes your job easier because you already have a baseline to build on.

Eliciting an emotional reaction is the logical the next step. How you do this will depend on your cause and voice. One technique is to create a sense of accountability using the challenge approach: “You signed up for this, now show us what you’ll do to create change!”

  1. Ask for Follow-Ups

Once people donate, it’s easy for them to forget about your cause because they aren’t involved in the day-to-day work of your organization. Do what you can to avoid losing your slacktivist donors to the memory abyss! Almost all websites have email lists, but people get so much junk mail that your messages might get filtered straight into junk or spam folders. A mailing list is still important, but you can do even more.

One option is to ask or survey your slacktivist audience to help you brainstorm ideas on how to get more people involved with your cause. Let them choose how to help by asking about their skill sets and what they enjoy doing most. Then use those responses as best you can to further direct email marketing or donation solicitation.

  1. Work Directly Alongside Companies

Soliciting corporate donations should serve as a portion of your fundraising strategy, but you can get more from companies by building a longer-lasting partnership. One of the most valuable assets that for-profits have and nonprofits lack is a sizeable workforce, many of whom have needed skills and want to give back to the community. Last year, about 60 percent of companies in the United States had a program that addressed corporate social responsibility.

Millennials, especially, want their companies to help people and the planet, so creating volunteer matching programs helps draw talent and fosters employee engagement. It can be difficult to find a company that meshes well with your vision, but if you can pull it off, it’s worth it. You can get people interested in more active volunteer work while also addressing your organization’s and the company’s needs. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Ultimately, slacktivism isn’t an enemy if you choose to look at it through a different lens. And taking steps towards making slacktivism work for you can greatly benefit your nonprofit or organization. Have a thought to add? Share it with us in the comments section below!

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