As described on Facebook’s “Causes” webpage, the application was developed to provide individuals with the opportunity to raise money for a specific cause, bypassing the massive overhead which most charities must provide in order to raise money.
A Facebook user can select a register U.S. or Canadian 501(c)(3) nonprofit, create a “Cause” page around it (similar to a Facebook group), and recruit their friends to join the Cause and donate money, through a credit card or a linked Paypal account.
Criticism of Causes
The Chronicle of Philanthropy discussed how Facebook’s application, by June of 2008, had only raised $2.5 million dollars, when the site at the time had 12 million users. Thus, each user contributed on average 2.1 cents.
The Chronicle detailed a weakness with this application, that users can add the application to their site, choose their causes, and appear to represent the cause without actually donating any money to the cause.
Paypal has made available a feature through their site in which an individual can add a widget to their Facebook or Myspace page to raise money for a cause, such as a 5K race or environmental group. This allows users to see how much has been donated and how much needs to be donated, and provides the opportunity for others to donate to a cause.
Firstgiving’s Customizable Pages
The website Firstgiving allows users to create a personal fundraising webpage for their cause, which can then be linked to their Facebook, Twitter, or other site. Firstgiving takes a 7.5% comission from each transaction made.
Twitter Fundraising through Tipjoy
Tipjoy is a downloadable application for Twitter which allows the user to place a “tip jar” on their site, allowing people to donate to their cause. Each donation is then “tweeted” with an @ symbol in the newsfeed.
Beth Kanter and Tweetsgiving
As described on her blog, Beth Kanter, with less than 100 Twitter-ers, used Twitter to raise $2657 in 90 minutes for Leng Sopharath, an orphan from Cambodia, providing tuition to allow her to attend college for a year. They went on to raise sufficient funds to send an additional Cambodian orphan to college.
Kanter recommends using the Tweets to tell a story, providing readers with enough information to feel like they are part of the story. She also suggests small, attainable targets and limited timespans. Finally, she says that offering participants a tangible step to show their support, such as changing their profile picture to that of a frozen pea, may provide a means to build momentum for a cause.