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The Race to be the "Facebook" for Social Good

The Race to be the

       Donors need a central source of information guiding them on how to get involved in changing our world. As I consider the future of technology, I often think about the possibility of a website specifically geared toward nonprofits, fundraising, and volunteerism. I envision an online hub for fundraisers, donors, and non-profit experts to share experiences, offer advice, and network. It would be another form of social media entirely separate from Facebook or MySpace. Rather than finding friends, promoting your band, or photo stalking people, it would focus on social good. This new professional site, similar to LinkedIn, would serve as a forum to share positive experiences in the areas of social and global change.

       This technological advancement has been in the works for some time. In fact, there were three social good networking websites launched in 2010 alone. They are Jumo.com, the newly revamped Idealist.org, and Crowdrise.com.

       Each of these websites seeks to connect people who have the desire to help and make change possible. Through these resources, changemakers are given the opportunity to virtually convene and brainstorm about their chosen causes in an open forum. In addition, these websites allow nonprofit organizations and donors to stay connected with one another.

       In 1996, Ami Dar launched Idealist.org with the hopes that it would serve as a “connector” for social change initiatives. For many years, Dar had been working on ways to connect people around the world with a common purpose. Idealist.org was launched as a means to fulfill this goal. Unintentionally, Idealist became known as the premiere nonprofit job hunting website.*

       In July of this year, Dar hosted a meeting to share his vision for the future of idealist.org. He believes there are incalculable great ideas floating around; yet, many people lack the resources and information to make their ideas a reality. Through its mission, Idealist breaks down the barriers of government, race, or religion that could potentially inhibit real positive change.

       Idealist is working hard to revamp its image to represent the aspect of connecting by emphasizing a social network for social good. The new website, is clearly devoted to linking people with a common cause by giving the user the opportunity to create a traditional social networking profile.

       On September 20, 2010, actor Edward Norton spoke at the Social Good Summit hosted by the 92nd Street Y in partnership with Mashable.com and the United Nations Foundation. Norton’s website, Crowdrise.com, launched this past May. This site emphasizes social networking as a means to raise funds. According to Norton, Crowdrise is an opportunity for people to say, “Here’s who I am. Here’s what I care about.” He strongly believes that social media can bring about real change. One of the great things about Crowdrise is that it’s designed to be light-hearted and playful. As Mr. Norton put it “[People] look at it as a place where they are going to have fun.” I currently use Crowdrise to raise funds for Mental Health America, an organization that I support. With Crowdrise, I can network with people who also care about raising funds for mental heath awareness.

       Jumo, the brainchild of Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, serves to “connect people who want to change the world.” Chris spoke about his latest endeavor at the Social Good Summit. As a self-proclaimed Facebook addict, I was very excited to hear that Chris Hughes is launching Jumo on November 30th. Jumo will help people find, follow, and support nonprofit organizations. He says of his site, “Technology is just the platform. We are helping individuals already doing the work.”

       I have an inclination that Jumo will be the most popular social media for social good. With its connection to one of the masterminds of Facebook, Jumo has a running start on making a strong, well-run, well-organized social networking experience. Hughes has worked on Facebook Causes, an application that allows organizations raise funds via Facebook. In addition he can leverage his Facebook connection to promote the new site. The philanthropic community is eagerly awaiting its launch and I believe that if he builds it, they will come. Facebook fans will want to check out Jumo, as I predict it will be the most popular fundraising site. Yet, does this make it a winner?

       Jason Franklin, New York University adjunct professor and doctoral candidate, wonders if the winner will be about “substance” or “appearance.” We must consider the business model of each of the websites. How do they plan on making money? It is one thing to build a popular website; it is entirely another to be a site that truly works to explore issues and aid in their resolution. Who will be the one to find the right balance?

       Halima Leak, a NYU doctoral candidate studying philanthropy in higher education, views these incoming social networks as less of a race and more about “who is coming up with the next useful way to network.” She says, “The popularity of [technology] fades and evolves really quickly.” Halima believes that each site will have unique strengths. Rather than being a race to see who it the best, they might each serve their own distinctive niche and cohabitate.

        With any issue, there are varying viewpoints. I believe there will be a premiere social networking website for social good. Yes, I am measuring it by popularity; there will be a place that everyone talks about as “the place” to go. The more users the website has, the more likely it will become the main virtual meeting place.

       Facebook is the dominant social networking website. It has wiped out other traditional social networking competitors, and it has become increasingly common for organizations to urge their constituents to “Find Us on Facebook.” As we seek to effectively connect causes to people, one can only hope that a “Facebook” of social good will emerge and become the link the non-profit world needs.

 

*Ami Dar's presentation held on July 14, 2010 at the Idealist.org office in New York City.

 

Sarah Cornacoff

M.S. in Fundraising and Grantmaking 2011

 




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