Causes App celebrates first birthday – but surely there is more potential for Facebook fundraising?

Last Saturday was an important anniversary in Social Networking terms, marking one year since Facebook launched Facebook Platform, the toolkit that enables the development of 3rd party Applications (Apps) that integrate directly with Facebook user data. The sudden explosion in Apps resulting from this was a significant driver of the site’s massive growth in popularity throughout 2007, and according to Facebook stats site Adonomics it has led to the release of almost 27,000 Apps to-date.

The same day was also the first anniversary of the biggest non-profit Facebook App, ‘Causes’ from Project Agape (now also available on MySpace).

A runaway success from launch in terms of installations, Project Agape marked the anniversary with the release of statistics on its first year’s activity. Apparently they now have a total of 12 million registered users (95,886 daily active users when I just checked) supporting over 80,000 US and Canadian non-profit organisations. Other countries are still being considered for inclusion, but in a post on the Causes discussion board earlier this month it was explained that “Supporting donations to UK-based charities is still a project we’re interested in, but we are strapped for resources and cannot provide a date”.

80,000 non-profits being represented on two of the world’s biggest Social Networking sites is undoubtedly great news, with the App clearly tapping into a widespread desire amongst site users to share their support for charitable causes.

However, when you look at the figures released in terms of hard cash it seems like Causes still has some way to go before it becomes a significant income generator for the organisations involved. Over the last 12 months, $2.5 million has been raised through Causes for 19,445 organisations – equating to an average of just $126 per organisation. No donations at all have been made to 75% of the 80,000 organisations being ‘supported’.

Don’t get me wrong. I still think Causes is a great initiative and I do understand when other commentators have observed that this is $2.5 million that these organisations would not have had otherwise. However, I wholeheartedly believe that supporter engagement on Social Networking sites has the potential to deliver massively more in fundraising terms than what currently appears to be the equivalent of an online small change collection tin.

Perhaps it’s simply that the Causes ‘Digital Badge’ approach to supporter engagement just doesn’t lend itself to generating higher levels of financial engagement? Is it just too easy to install the App and choose a few organisations to support by putting their badge on your profile and that’s it – job done?

By contrast, those Apps which extend the tried-and-tested sponsored challenge fundraising approach to Social Networking sites seem to better illustrate the real Community Fundraising potential of sites like Facebook. For example, Justgiving.com (which enables individuals to set-up fundraising pages in support of their sponsored activities) has seen significant uptake of its Facebook App (see their latest stats here) and identified Facebook as its second biggest referrer after Google – a trend confirmed by Hitwise UK.

Anyone else got any examples of where organisations are managing to raise significant amounts on Social Networking sites?

2 thoughts on “Causes App celebrates first birthday – but surely there is more potential for Facebook fundraising?

  1. Hooray for a blog on using Web 2.0 applications to raise support for nonprofits! I’ve only recently implemented a Facebook group and cause for my org, but I’m finding the group to be more popular so far. I like Causes better myself, and I think seeing friends give encourages others to do so as well. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting more people to add the app because Facebook is overrun with them these days!
    -Robin at the Respite

  2. Glad you like the blog Robin. Certainly sounds like you’re getting to grips with using Web 2.0 to spread the word about your organisation. I particularly like your YouTube videos, which are a great way to showcase the work you’re doing.

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