This week’s guest post comes from Tony Charalambides, Managing Director of Listen, an award-winning telephone fundraising agency working with clients in the not-for-profit sector.
Here he discusses the recent Greenpeace campaigning stunt which involved six activists scaling the Shard. In the article he argues that, even with the growth of online ‘slacktivism’, this more old fashioned ‘guts and glory’ approach to charity campaigning can still have a massive impact on the public and can, in the long run, lead to an increase in donations.
We all know that in the digital era, so connected are we to the web and myriad social networks that we can make change happen with the mere press of a button.
So have regime changes been brought about in Egypt, Syria and Tunisia. So have organisations like Avaaz exploded ecological and political injustices through its 20 million-strong network of digi-followers. Clicktivism, simply, is where it’s at.
But so rampant is all this world-changing that it can feel almost too effortless.
And so when six intrepid individuals scaled the Shard last week in the name of Greenpeace, this old-fashioned, guts and glory style activism struck a national chord – precisely because it was so effortful. It implied sweat, tears, conviction; it was dangerous and (thereby) selfless. It felt visceral, urgent and hugely exciting. It entered our psyche: it was front page news and chat show fodder.
It was an act, too, that brought to mind fuzzy recollections of fiercely dedicated campaigners fighting nuclear tests in the (ultimately doomed) Rainbow Warrior, dads dressed as superheroes storming Buckingham Palace and Parliament, or a determined Swampy holed up in a tunnel somewhere off the A30. It felt like a campaigning throwback.
And it was marvellous for it.
But the genius of the Shard-climb was its integration with modern slacktivism mediums like social media, too. To the casual on-site observer, the immediate purpose of the ascent wasn’t all that clear – unless, that is, they were following the whole affair online, where Twitter updates and a webcam feed showed you what you needed to know.
In the end, Greenpeace revealed that the Shard was chosen because it was in sight of Shell’s London base, and the climb inspired 75,000 people (and counting) to add their voices via the Greenpeace UK website to a campaign decrying offshore oil drilling in the Arctic – an incredible result.
Yes, naysayers believe such campaigns might negatively impact fundraising – but I rather think that’s missing the point.
Greenpeace have instantaneously created 75,000 consumers with their daredevil tactics – individuals who align themselves to their brand in an arguably significant way. And as blogger Mary Joyce wrote (via a certain Paul de Gregorio in this entry from 2012), ‘change has always happened through a ladder of engagement… (and slacktivism is) a new first rung.’
Which is to say consumers are only a few steps away from giving if you ask them to contribute in the right way.
And to bemoan the fact folks are supporting rather than donating per se undersells the huge – if more intangible – impact of keeping issues that matter directly, and daringly, in our collective sightline.
Take a look at Tony Charalambides’ blog here: www.tonycharalambides.com
Follow Tony Charalambides on Twitter here: @tcharalambides
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