Causes is an application on MySpace and Facebook that allows users to donate to their favorite charities and non-profits through their profiles and recruit friends and families. The great thing about Causes is a user does not have to work for a particular charity in an official capacity in order to raise thousands of dollars on its behalf. Many such "fundraisers" have not been asked by the charity to do so, and are working away because of their passion for the "cause."
According to the article, so far, 12 million users (including yours truly) have been registered for "causes" on the world's two most popular sites. So let's do some quick fake math here: $2.5 million/12,000,000 users averages out to about .20 cents a name donation (just because you register, does not mean you have to give). Pish posh, you might, say, what kind of $/name is that? But remember this, it very likely cost you NOTHING to get those 20 cents. You did not have to mail anyone, email anyone, give anyone a call, segment, sort, check click-thru rates, etc.
Maybe it was one of your staffers who spent a few hours registering on Facebook and starting a cause, maybe someone is viral marketing at your organization, or maybe there is someone out there, who is so passionate about what your organization does, they are out there raising money without you having to raise a finer or spend a dollar. But you have 12,000,000 people who have opted in to nearly 20,000 causes. They have asked to be spoken to by you. They have said: "I am interested." Now what?
Facebook has 70 million users. MySpace over 300 million. Crunching the numbers?
I thought it was appropriate here to copy and paste the "About Us" from the "Causes" application on Facebook:
The goal of all this is what we call "equal opportunity activism." We're trying to level the playing field by empowering individuals to change the world. Existing nonprofits must raise hundreds of millions of dollars and leverage massive direct marketing campaigns to attract members. We're democratizing activism by empowering activists with an arsenal of tools for users of Facebook who want to leverage their network on Facebook to effect positive change.
Any Facebook user with a little passion and initiative can create a cause, recruit their friends into that cause, keep everybody in the cause up-to-speed on issues and media related to the cause, and, most importantly, raise money directly through the cause for any U.S. registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit or Canadian registered charity.
We process the donations automatically via credit card, tally the results, and report the donation activity via a public "scorecard" in the cause. This allows us to reward people who grow their causes, donate, and successfully raise money.
This is a natural evolution of social networking. Leveraging real world social networks is an important part of activism, fundraising, and political campaigning. This is especially true of grassroots activism, local-chapter style nonprofit organizations, and the walks/runs used by many charities to raise money. Given all this, it's a bit surprising that online social networks haven't been more aggressively leveraged until now.