Facebook ‘Likes’ Could Be Hurting Charity Donations, Slacktivism To Blame

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If you wanted to show support for a charity or other worthwhile cause in the past you had to call into a telethon, show up for an event, or even volunteer your time within an organization. These days many users engage in slacktivism, the practice of clicking a Facebook Like button or retweeting a post without any further consideration for the cause.

A new study from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business has discovered that many would-be donors skip giving when given the opportunity to simply click a “Like” button in place of money.

Sauder PhD student Kirk Kristofferson, who co-authored the soon to publish study for the Journal of Consumer Research says, “Charities incorrectly assume that connecting with people through social media always leads to more meaningful support … Our research shows that if people are able to declare support for a charity publicly in social media it can actually make them less likely to donate to the cause later on.”

The study was commissioned after many agencies began to realize that social media users were turning into slacktivists for causes they believed in or only semi-supported. Those slacktivists oftentimes believe that somehow clicking a Like is equal to pitching in with their time or money.

Researchers invited participants to engage in an initial act of free support for a cause, for example, joining a Facebook group, accepting a poppy, pin or magnet, or signing a petition. Researchers then asked users to donate their time or money.

The study found that the more a person publicly supported a charity through public endorsements, the less likely they were to provide any type of real meaningful support at a later time.
Participants who were asked to support a cause in private were found to donate more of their time and money at a later time.
So why the difference between public and private support? Researchers believe that people who participate in slacktivism are more interested in looking good to others, which in turn lessens their desire to give. People who donated in private are more likely to support causes that align specifically with their own values.

While slacktivism may not lead to donations, it still serves a purpose because it spreads the word about a cause to people who in the past might not have mentioned the cause in passing.

Facebook Likes, Twitter Retweets, and other forms of social media sharing spread the world about many various causes, now charities and other public groups just need to figure out the best way to utilize those quickly spreading messages as they go viral.

James Kosur

James Kosur has worked in the new media space for the last 10 years, helping many publications build their audiences to millions of monthly readers. He currently serves as the Director of Business Development at Business2Community.com and the CEO of Aven Enterprises LLC.


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