I was all geared up to write a response to the Washington Post critique on the Facebook ”Causes” application, but others with better ideas than mine beat me to the post. The Post article suggests that the application, which allows supporters/champions of nonprofits to share their enthusiasm and encourage contributions, is ineffective as compared to other fundraising strategies, and therefore flawed.
As other bloggers have noted, ”ineffective” contains a bundle of assumptions worthy of deconstruction. And the expectations/assumptions about social network sites as fundraising tools is chief among those assumptions.
Beth Kanter (thanks to @lisa_hoang) offers links and summaries to many responses, chief among them Allison Fine, who deconstructs some of the lessons we’re learning through the Causes application beyond ”effective” or ”ineffective.”
- Causes enables a lot of people to “support a cause.” In old thinking that meant only one thing: give us money. But in connected thinking, it means that each one of us is can be more than an ATM for our causes. Causes on FB enables us to tell our own world — distinct from the world — about the issues, campaigns, orgs that they are passionate about.
- Episodically, Causes has demonstrated the amazing power of distributed fundraising for causes. [Me talking here: this is consistent with the power-law patterns we see elsewhere on the web, where the top winners win really big, and the not-so-top trail off into oblivion…but given the low cost, even folks in the ”long tail” can win.]
- Using dollars raised as a critical measure of success has allowed others to hammer Causes without much cause. [Me again: Selecting the right metric is the large part of the battle in any medium…dollars raised is an important but meaningless metric unless measured against others described below.]
- If Causes was judged on awareness only it would get an A+ — there are very few mechanisms that enable communities of people to learn so much about causes so inexpensively.
So, is Facebook a gravy train for vague requests for cash? No. Nothing is. [Is a telephone a useful tool for shoveling dirt? Is it supposed to be?] But it’s an extraordinary resource to enable your friends and supporters to spread their enthusiasm. And that can’t be bad.