Social media’s potential to help NGOs and non-profits fundraise has recently taken a sobering introspection. Donor fatigue is on the rise despite the urgent need in many humanitarian and long-term development contexts. Despite the likelihood that the MDG on universal primary education will not be met, overall foreign aid for basic education has fallen 9%. In Jordan, there was a $250 million funding gap to assist Syrian refugees as of June this year. Organisations, taking a cue from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, are asking themselves, “What have Likes ever done for us?” Earlier this year, UNICEF Sweden commissioned the ad agency Forsman & Bodenfors to create this campaign:
There is also a major TV spot for the campaign.
Tom Murphy gave a good account of the campaign on Humanosphere, writing “UNICEF Sweden’s campaign wedges itself into a broader debate over the power of social media to support change. The responses to the campaign so far have been largely positive.” It certainly generated a lot of activity from writers and bloggers. Marc Pitman was one who didn’t respond so positively, “How dare we as NGOs or nonprofits command people in how to support us. How dare we berate them for ‘only’ helping their friends know we exist by sharing about us on social media.”
In the widely circulated TV spot, which racked up over 275,000 views, the protagonist Rahim says, “But I think everything will be alright. Today Unicef Sweden has 177,000 likes on Facebook. Maybe they will reach 200,000 by summer.” Well, they only have 187,000. Mission accomplished? Perhaps. According to their website where you can buy vaccines, “Since April 18, we have together vaccinated 525,642 children”. (Thanks Google Translate). When the number of children vaccinated (500,000+) > Facebook Likes (10,000) over the same period, it is a win.
But, I am not sure if any one wrote about that. As it tends to happen in the news cycle, the blog cycle soon slowed down and nothing much else was heard. In fact, you may have missed out on their other videos for the campaign: ‘The Sweater‘; ‘The Restaurant‘; ‘The Barbershop‘.
Crisis Relief Singapore (CRS) took notice of UNICEF Sweden’s success. Although the principle message is the same, CRS is not asking for donations but for volunteers. “Liking isn’t helping. Be a volunteer, change a life”.
Christina Taylor (“Editor. Reader. Writer”) brought my attention to the campaign as featured in news.com.au. It is potentially explosive, bringing together two realms of debate and consternation in the aid/development blogosphere: volunteerism + slacktivism (= slackteervism?). Add in a dash of Christianity, “As a Christian organization, we believe in the importance of praying for the organization”, and BOOM! The campaign won a Gold Lion at Cannes, but certainly didn’t generate the search engine optimisations UNICEF Sweden’s campaign did or the number of vaccinated children.
Nor were the Twitter feeds ablaze except with slacktivists tweeting the title of the original story, ‘Liking isn’t helping’, usually preceeded by the prefix ‘This!’. I wonder how many of them decided to volunteer for CRS or at least pray for them. Slacktipray. I commented to Christina that it feels exploitative (no, I am not going to use the term ‘poverty porn’ but it is the same genre), and Anna Ashenden (“Passionately barefoot”) suggested that it might just promote “slactivism about slactivism”. At least on their volunteer application form, they appear to take into account language, medical training/skills and your willingness to attend monthly prayer meetings to pray for the organisation.
There are so many points of intersection here – volunteerism/voluntourism, slacktivism, faith in the NGO sector, social media, fundraising, “poverty porn” – that it appears even the writers on slacktivism are getting slack. I am looking at you, fellow WhyDev slacktivist experts Weh Yeoh and Richenda Ghebrial-Ibrahim.
Update 24 July
The World Food Programme (WFP) has joined the choir, promising that for each Facebook Like, their partner Royal DSM will provide a meal to a child in need. Check it out here (hat tip @a_ashenden). There are no precise details about how this will happen on Facebook, and you need to go to WFP’s partnerships webpage for clarification.
“WFP and DSM have launched an online campaign to grow WFP’s Facebook community and raise awareness about hunger — the world’s greatest solvable problem. For every person who “likes” WFP’s Facebook page between 17 July and 8 August, DSM will donate the value of a nutritious school meal to WFP. This campaign will raise a minimum of 40,000 school meals.” (emphasis added).
What do you think? Which campaign do you prefer and why?
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