May 19, 2010

Behind the success of 10 top Causes

At the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, one of thousands of causes on

Campaigns, timely updates, passionate supporters add up to move the needle

By Kim Bale
Socialbrite staff

Lots of nonprofits and social change organizations have used Causes (formerly Facebook Causes) to raise funds and amplify their efforts, but the vast majority of them haven’t moved the needle much. So we set out to discover: What makes a successful campaign on Causes?

Each week, people donate hundreds of thousands of dollars on Causes. But participating organizations often have goals beyond raising funds: Many are trying to recruit new supporters, raise awareness about issues, enlist people to attend events and so on. Organizations using Causes, a small unit within Facebook, often use Facebook apps and the viral power of friends of friends to generate attention in a way not possible in the days of stand-alone destination websites.

The really remarkable stories on Causes, though, involve the individual activists — not the nonprofits themselves — who launch a cause and generate interest in some of today’s most pressing issues. Some causes grow in membership by word of mouth, while others are part of a planned outreach campaign. Large or small, each cause showcases its top recruiters, donors and fundraisers in its Hall of Fame, prompting more people to participate.

While Causes has not lived up to everyone’s lofty expectations as a money machine, even small-scale causes — like the $3,400 donated to help wildlife hurt by the BP oil spill — can add up to make a difference.

There are many elements to creating a successful cause campaign — frequent updates, active supporters, playing off news headlines and joining larger fundraising efforts are four key factors — and lots of ways to measure success. Here are 10 of the best efforts we’ve seen on Causes. Have your own favorite? Add it in the comments below!


The Race To End Cancer

1With nearly 6 million members, The Race to End Cancer is the largest Facebook cause and has raised $74,105 for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Started by 19-year-old Michelle Miles, the cause has become enormously successful as members recruit their friends in hopes of raising money and growing it to the next level. Incentives such as competing in America’s Giving Challenge (Causes is one of three sponsors) and helping the hospital win a playroom makeover sponsored by Xbox keep members donating and recruiting friends. Other successful cancer campaigns include Campaign for Cancer Prevention and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, among many others.


Overseas China Education Foundation (OCEF)

2The OCEF has more than 10,000 members and has donated more than $240,000 to improve school systems in rural China and help disadvantaged children get an education. Part of their success is due to tying in to larger campaigns, including the Facebook app for Chase Community Giving and America’s Giving Challenge; OCEF won the 2009 Giving Challenge, receiving over 13,000 of the 105,420 donations made.


Love Without Boundaries Foundation

3This small, volunteer-staffed nonprofit managed to pull ahead of larger organizations in the 2008 Causes Giving Challenge to raise an eye-poppnig $144,898 from just 4,115 donors. The secret to their success? Many of its staff members signed up for Facebook just to join the challenge and then used the organization’s heartfelt stories and touching photos to bring in thousands of new supporters who had never heard of them. Love Without Boundaries provides Chinese orphans with medical care in preparation for adoption. The organization allocated $50,000 of the prize money to save the lives of 10 babies through heart surgery. To date, the cause’s 30,000 members have generated $158,459, telling us that ginning up online support during the Giving Challenge was critical key to success.

The Nature Conservancy

4More than 230,000 supporters have chipped in $367,819 so far for The Nature Conservancy cause. The Facebook application (Lil) Green Patch has been especially helpful — people who use it have recruited 1,219 members and raised $210,000 to save the rainforests. The organization is providing updates about the Gulf oil spill, generating additional interest and contributions.

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October 19, 2009

8 tips for raising funds online

NPO panel

At BlogWorld Expo, tools and strategies for nonprofits

JD LasicaThe first Causes/Activism track at the just-ended Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas drew some 1,500 participants — a promising showing by the nonprofit community. I moderated the Tools for Nonprofit Organizations panel, with panelists Judy Chang of Paypal, Justin Perkins of Care2, David Levy of SocialVibe, James Sutandyo of Causecast and consultant Scott Henderson.

Here’s my Flickr photo set of BlogWorld Expo, about 60 photos in all. I also put together this Delicious tag — — to aggregate many of the the services, tools and platforms that nonprofits and social change organizations can use to raise funds to advance their missions online.

About 100 people, chiefly from nonprofits small and large, attended our panel and you can follow what they tweeted about the session at #tools4npo

The panelists collectively came up with these recommendations:

8 tips for raising funds online

1. Make it a specific project, not for the overarching nonprofit or a general fund

2. Tell a compelling story with a strong human-interest angle

3. Create a feedback loop from the recipients to the donors to form an emotional bond

4. Have a hard stop — set a date to donate by

5. Pool your efforts by collaborating with reputable like-minded partners (including trading space in partners’ email newsletters)

6. Don’t pussyfoot around — have a clear and specific “ask” or call to action Continue reading