User Generated Content to the Rescue for Nonprofits

A nonprofit is an organization that works for a social cause with little profit. Not only does it work to raise money for its organization, but nonprofits are also fighting to have stable budgets to continue to promote fundraising for its cause. A shift seems to have been made in the last few years is user generated content in the nonprofit world. And the best part? It is completely free. While nonprofits have always relied on its supporters to raise money for the organization, user generated content has taken that desired level of support to the next level at little cost to the organization. This seems like a really good thing, right? I thought so too, but when there is a positive someone always finds a negative. These kinds of campaigns and movements have been referred to as slacktivism efforts. And to me, that’s just ridiculous and here is why:

What Exactly is Slacktivism and User Generated Content:

With the takeover of the interest and social media, individuals have started taking to the platforms to express their opinions and showing support or dismay for individual causes. Slacktivism is loosely defined as actions users take on the Internet supporting a political or social cause that requires little time on their end and sometimes referred to as “armchair activism” (Seay, 2014). Examples of this could be signing an online petition, making political statements, or joining in on an online campaign. Is this really “slacking” behavior though or just a sign of the times? *Cue Harry Styles*


User generated content is basically any content generated by a user of social media. Content could include a video, social media post, or a photograph. Studies have found that user generated content is found to be 50% more trustworthy than other media sources by consumers (Dholakiya, 2017). People are more likely to trust other people that they know or can relate to versus reading an advertisement in a paper or from someone they don’t know.

Why User Generated Content is a Good Thing:

Besides being free, user generated content offers several key benefits to nonprofit organizations that take advantage of it (Cunha, 2018).

  • It creates new and unique content
  • Builds brand awareness
  • Establishes credibility to the organization or brand
  • Makes an organization seem more personable
  • Increases social media reach
  • Organizations get a firsthand look at how consumers feel about its brand

The Reality: No matter the size of the nonprofit, all of them struggle to find budget money to make an effective marketing campaign. Created content pieces, with user generated content, is the best way for these organizations to get a bang for its buck and content to grow awareness to its brand. This isn’t slacking behavior by any means, its simply being resourceful.

How Non-Profits Have Benefited:

Look at the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. The viral challenge called on user to either dump an ice-cold bucket of water over their head or donate to the ALS foundation, and some users even did both. This incredible trend even got some of the biggest celebrities on board like Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and Kim Kardashian West (Alexander, 2016). The campaign raised $100 million in 30 days and cost the nonprofit nearly nothing to promote. The money raised during that challenge even led to breakthrough research that identified a new gene associated with the disease (Woolf, 2016).

Another example of how user generated content has been a huge success with nonprofits is through the #AerieREAL campaign. Aerie is a casual and lounge wear company that wanted to fight the stigma of a supermodel look. Through this campaign they challenged women to post their untouched and unedited pictures to social media with the hashtag #AeireREAL. For each woman who posted a photo celebrating her body, Aerie donated a dollar (up to $10,000) to NEDA, in support of those affected by eating disorders (Krupnick, 2017).


Going Forward:

Clearly social media isn’t going anywhere, so organization’s need to learn how to utilize the outlets to full capacity. User generated content is the best way for nonprofits to maximize its basically nonexistent budgets. Going forward, nonprofits could continue to utilize video challenges and hashtags to create this unique content, or even find other unique ways to create content by photo challenges and different social media contests. Either way, user generated content pieces are nonprofits new best friend.



Alexander, E. (2016, November 17). The ice bucket challenge has led to a major ALS breakthrough. Retrieved March 25, 2018, from http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/als-ice-bucket-challenge-celebrities-taylor-swift-lena-dunham-chris-pratt

Cunha, M. D. (2018, March 22). WordStream. Retrieved March 26, 2018, from https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2016/02/09/marketing-for-nonprofits

Krupnick, E. (2017, December 07). These Awesome Underwear Ads Are ‘Challenging Supermodel Standards’. Retrieved March 24, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/17/aerie-unretouched-ads-photos_n_4618139.html

Seay, L. (2014, March 12). Does slacktivism work? Retrieved March 25, 2018, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2014/03/12/does-slacktivism-work/?utm_term=.934d610cdb5b

Woolf, N. (2016, July 27). Remember the ice bucket challenge? It just funded an ALS breakthrough. Retrieved March 24, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/26/ice-bucket-challenge-als-charity-gene-discovery

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