You might remember that a few weeks ago there was an article in the Washington Post proclaiming that fundraising using Facebook Causes was a failure based on a calculation of dollars per donor. The article ignited a discussion on nonprofit blogs prompted by some astute observations by colleague Allison Fine.
Allison suggested that we reframe how think about Causes. I'll boil it down to "Causes is A Friending Tool, Not A Fundraising Tool." (Credit to Steve MacLaughlin for that phrase). The article and subsequent blog posts prompted more reflections (summarized here). My colleague, Brian Reich, offered a Brain Dump" post where he lays out how Facebook Causes can be a game changer in the future and what needs to change. His recommendations are directed at the folks at Facebook Causes who created the application and nonprofits using the tool.
Joe Green, one of the founders of Causes, spent an hour on the phone with me to discuss how they hope to work differently with the nonprofit community. He also wanted to introduce to The Causes Exchange, their new blog. This is the beginning of their effort to better communicate and share lessons learned with nonprofits about using Causes. They also have a @causes on Twitter and I hope they will use that to engage directly with the nonprofits who want to get better results rather than just tweeting about themselves.
- Ingredients of a successful Causes fundraising campaign include engaging your audience with creative content, enlisting your core leadership to cultivate and activate other participants. They are also finding that the use of matching grants is a good leveraging tool for fundraising campaigns. Take for example this recent case study on the blog. Far more effective, is the use of Causes to generate petition signings. They recently had their first petition reach $1 million signatures. "We know that Causes is great viral tool for spreading awareness."
- Causes isn't a magic bullet. It takes time to be successful. It requires setting up a hypothesis, experiment, and tweaking. Joe shared that they do a lot of experiments internally before building out the application's new features. I encouraged him to write about this on the blog and perhaps even share a cookbook for experimentation. I would love some strategy recipes. What Causes would like to hear about from nonprofits is the feature requests that are rooted in strategy. "Think about what isn't working in your use of Causes and how a particular feature can improve your strategy." I offered up my request for the ability to do better relationship building and not have the interface get in the way. (I think I heard him typing notes in the background)
Joe also talked about how they are currently working nonprofits as a "beta group." Not so much in the traditional sense of testing features, but in implementing and documenting the results of their strategies. I pointed out that this is exactly the information that needs to be made more visible to nonprofits and not in a glossy PR way - the nitty gritty how to and don't do this stuff.
- About the issue of fatigue. Joe says, "It happens when organizations aren't responsible in using the tool. We want to promote good practices as much as possible." He suggests that organizations forget that they're on the Internet and think about what their strategy in offline terms. "Think like an offline community grassroots organizer."
- According to Joe the blog is a beginning point, not an ending point. They hope to add more case study, tips, and how-to content based on what they're learning working closely with nonprofits and hearing from nonprofits. They also plan to invite people to write guest posts on the blog as well.
- I relayed some of the specific, nitty gritty questions that Twitter followers asked. Here's the answers:
Iphone Version of Causes and UK/Australia platforms are not coming immediately. They want to improve the US version first.
There's not good solution yet for integration of Causes with Fan Pages. Right now best approach is to install Causes as a tab in your Fan Page.
No specific answers about the Pay Pal question and access to contact information of donors.
I hope I got this down correctly and if I didn't, I'm sure the Causes folks will leave corrections in the comments. Also, I'm sure this doesn't answer all the questions ... but there's a blog and Twitter for more questions and dialgoue. The ball is in Causes court.