Non-Profits on Facebook and MySpace

Amid all the hoopla over social networks Facebook and MySpace, both major social networks have prominant sections for non-profit activity. Facebook’s is called Causes and MySpace’s is Impact. In this post we’ll take a closer look at how Facebook and MySpace cater to non-profits. Incidentally, lest you think we’re only focused on the big networks, in a follow-up post we’ll look at the smaller non-profit enterprises on the Web. We got some great suggestions along those lines in the comments of our opening post in Non-Profits Week.

Facebook Causes lets users create online communities to advocate for various issues, charities and political candidates. A recent WSJ article noted that Causes was begun in May 2007, launched by a social-action start-up called Project Agape. WSJ also wrote that MySpace launched its Impact awards late last year, “honoring individuals and nonprofit groups that have successfully used the site to make a difference.” MySpace members vote on the winners, who get $10,000. Also of course both Facebook and MySpace already host thousands of nonprofits’ profiles.

Facebook Causes

Looking at Facebook’s Causes first. Currently is has 4,000,000 users and counting, according to Allan Benamer of the excellent Non-Profit Tech Blog. As noted by severalblogs when it launched in May, Facebook Causes has deep integration within Facebook’s platform. Users can create a cause, recruit their friends, keep everybody updated on news and media related to the cause, and of course raise money. Project Agape processes the donations automatically via credit card, tallies the results, and reports the donation activity via a public “scorecard” in the cause.

Currently, the 5 most popular causes in Facebook (in terms of users) are:

1. Support Breast Cancer Research (1,444,427 members – $31,277 donated)

2. Stop Global Warming (627,293 members – $9,416 donated)

3. Save Darfur (473,996 members – $35,803 donated)

4. Animal Rights (546,781 members – $9,208 donated)

5. Stop Dog Fighting Now (281,291 members – $10,761 donated)

The Support Breast Cancer Research has gotten well over a million members, however its donations are relatively low – averaging just 2c per member. The group itself acknowledged this in a post at the end of August. For September, the group has set a goal to raise $10,000 – hopefully bringing them near $40,000. It really is a great cause, with all donations going towards scientific research into causes, preventions, and treatments for breast cancer (with 0% overhead according to the group).

The struggle to raise money by SBCR brings us to this week’s Read/WriteWeb poll, which indicates that people usually don’t donate online. We asked: How often do you donate to charities or non-profits online? So far 24% voted “rarely” and 45% “never”. So nearly 70% of respondants rarely or never donate online. That perhaps explains why the Support Breast Cancer Research group has struggled so far – people just aren’t inclined to donate online yet.

MySpace Impact

MySpace’s Impact service is more like a portal for non-profits group activity, as it features news, videos and events.

Interestingly the Impact homepage appears to have been overtaken by Australian politicians, with the current campaign focus and accompanying facewall all about Australia politics (are US readers seeing this? I’m unsure if this is geo-targeted). There’s also an advert for voter registration to the side, plus politicians seem to dominate the news in Impact too – Al Gore is the lead story.

Overall there’s a bit too much focus on politics in MySpace Impact. Also it is unclear how ordinary users can contribute – as usual with MySpace, the design and navigation leaves much to be desired.

Conclusion

Facebook Causes seems to be doing more for charities at this point, although raising money via Facebook doesn’t appear to be easy – with none of the top 5 Causes having raised more than $40k. Still early days though, because it only launched in May 2007. Currently MySpace Impact seems dominated by political causes – which are non-profit, but not likely to inspire those with a charitable bent to use MySpace.

In our next post, we’ll look more closely at some of the smaller non-profits using the Web. Please keep the suggestions coming in the comments, because that’s the best way for us to learn about the smaller activities.

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