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Philippe Bradley

You're successfully highlighting a very important aspect of a transition to really mass-market online philanthropy in an age where we're moving into the Attention Economy. There is just so much to DO - so much information, so many activities, all jostling for your attention - that the most successful endeavours on the Internet do NOT seek to build longlasting relationships around a single object.

Instead, they offer a high degree of granularity (break what you ask of your audience or donors, be it attention, money, information, etc) down into tiny pieces. But get them hooked the first time and get them to repeat it again and again - this is why people spend more time on YouTube with its 30s - 10min clips, than on the BBC iPlayer, where you can watch whole shows.

I suspect truly successful online philanthropy will have to fold into this trend. The importance of microphilanthropy is clearly obvious, therefore: if people aren't going to be building strong relationships and taking the time to get to know your nonprofit, then they probably will never build up the trust to make a big, onetime sacrifice to it. Instead, they will nibble away, taking small bites for as long as your cheese remains attractive.

I suspect that alongside figuring out how to get even bigger crowds involved in microphilanthropy, there's going to be quite a lot of clever heads being scratched about how to ramp up people's engagement beyond the most basic, fleeting one-night stands you describe - but big relationships will never really flourish online and I feel successful nonprofits will reflect this in their online marketing strategy - and budgets.

Beth Kanter


Thanks for your thoughts. What do you think is necessary to ramp up engagement, although in small steps online?


I've found that commenting on other groups has been most rewarding. That may be because the cause I administer (ANTaR) is not based in America or Canada so it's not eligible to accept donations through Causes. For us, creating a Group is more useful than Causes because you can also use it to invite friends to events.

Michael Weiksner

Nice summary. From the other comments, it seems that causes as a self-expression application is spot on. As for my proposed native application, who knows if it would work or not. For certain causes (perhaps political candidates? save the whales?), it think it might.

But I want to clarify: you idea of coffee and love notes is not just the way nonprofit currently works, it just wouldn't be like any currently popular application on facebook. But that's a positive not a normative statement. There are good reasons to think that coffee and love *should* be part of fund raising.

Thanks for sparking and summarizing this conversation!

Jennifer Newcomb


Thanks for writing about Facebook applications and beginning a dialogue on the topic. Children's Hope International has not yet set up a Cause application, as a cut of donations goes towards the infrastructure itself. AKA, less of the donation actually helps a child in need.

As an org committed to green communication and cutting admin costs, we are all for facebook as a means of spreading awareness - but we're not quite on board with the Cause application due to the cut.

But, as a FB user myself, I do agree that Causes are a badge of what lies close to my heart. It is definitely a means of self-expression and less of a means to get others to donate. Hmm...

On another note, I'm certainly interested in creating an application outside of Causes that would bring daily international child statistics to a user's facebook, etc, but personally do not have the means of setting something like that up... Still looking into it and brainstorming.

Thanks again, Beth.

Dave Webb

"It's like going straight to bed with someone without having coffee first." Good encapsulation of Causes and it's utilitarian value as a fundraising mechanism.

I made a similar observation about Causes being more about self-expression than anything else. in a recent blog post. Motivating even those who say they support a Cause to actually give money has not proven to be an easy task for most organizations.

My experience with the Causes Giving challenge is bearing this out. Those non-profits that have a support infrastructure outside of Facebook are the ones that are being the most successful. Communication problems with the benefactor I'm supporting have made it difficult to have success. There's been some movement within the walled garden of Facebook, but not enough to really move the needle.

I also think pages are a good option in Facebook for non-profits to have a presence. It's a good gathering place for all the various groups and Causes that are started by supporters.

Thanks for the link to this post, Beth. It helps confirm my misgivings about Causes as a viable fundraising tool. But when incorporated strategically with pages, groups, & events, it can help make a connection with supporters more emotional and possibly even romantic. :)

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