Will Your Tweet Save A Life? According To UNICEF Sweden, Probably Not

There's no doubt that social media has made a huge impact on the nonprofit world. From "tweetaconda" to pink and red drenched Facebook profiles to raise awareness for marriage equality, nonprofits have employed myriad tactics to increase awareness and recruit prospective donors. But one nonprofit is coming out and saying that a tweet is sometimes not enough – especially when there is a life at stake.

UNICEF Sweden recently launched a controversial campaign speaking out against "slacktivisim," a simple, online action to show support of a cause or issue. The organization's position that social media actions won't help impact issues – in UNICEF's case, provide vaccinations or save lives – is driven home by a video of a young orphan named Rahim, who says he's not worried about polio impacting his life because "UNICEF Sweden has 177,000 Likes on Facebook." The video concludes with "Likes don't save lives. Money does," and an accompanying poster states, "Like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio." While it's clear what UNICEF wants – cash, not "likes" – is the organization correct in its implication that slacktivism is really just slacking?

As we reported recently, the donor engagement ladder may be shifting but it's hard to deny the sheer power of a social campaign. While a Facebook "like" may not directly save a life, a social campaign can move an issue forward, keep supporters informed and provide further avenues for engagement, including advocacy, volunteerism and donations. According to a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review article, those who also engage with a brand on social media are just as likely to donate as others; twice as likely to volunteer/participate in an event, and three times as likely to solicit donations on behalf of a cause. UNICEF is correct – a lone "like" will not save a life. But the obligation is on nonprofits to turn "likes" or tweets into something more, through continued engagement and dialogue around an important issue or perhaps social media-triggered donations funded in collaboration with a corporate partner. So nonprofits – don't give up on social, master it.


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