Social Networking For Social Causes

Can the world of Web 2.0 startups -- the jeans and t-shirts, the funky furniture, the social networking and viral marketing, the desire to make millions with the Next Great Idea -- transform the world of philanthropy?

That's a question we ask today in a story about a District startup called Razoo and other efforts.

Razoo is a for-profit company that has built a Web site to connect people with one another, much like social networking giants MySpace and Facebook, but in support of humanitarian objectives such as helping the poor in Nicaragua.

Another big entry into this field is a Silicon Valley company called Project Agape, created by Sean Parker, a former Facebook president and founder of the file-sharing service Napster, and Joe Green, the Harvard roommate of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Project Agape has built a "Causes" application that lets users of Facebook affiliate with and donate to charities.

Last week, AOL founder Steve Case's foundation announced it would award $750,000 in grants to charities selected by Internet users. Part of the contest will be administered through the Facebook "Causes" application.

On Facebook, the biggest group created through the "Causes" application, benefiting cancer research at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, has attracted nearly 2.9 million members. They've given slightly more than $52,000. A group supporting the Alliance for Climate Protection has generated $17,000 from 1.5 million members.

Questions abound in this approach. For starters, the for-profit companies are operating in a nonprofit world. It's also unknown whether the for-profit companies can actually make enough money to sustain themselves.

Matt Flannery, the founder and chief executive of Kiva, told me that "People in the public and especially our users are really sensitive to somebody making money."

Kiva is a not-for-profit Web site that connects lenders with people in poor countries who need tiny loans to start businesses. It's received plaudits from former president Bill Clinton and talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. Kiva asks lenders to make a contribution to the site at the end of the lending process, though it is not required.

There are different approaches elsewhere.

The Omidyar Network, started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, invests in for-profits, such as Digg, the social news site, and also backs a wide range of nonprofits. Many of those non profits also are active in the online space.

Some other notable online philanthropy sites include. These are non-profits.

* Donors Choose: Teachers and school officers post sums of money they need to achieve school projects, and donors can fund all or part of a request.

* Global Giving: Groups post their causes and what they need, and donors can find causes they want to support. Donors are kept apprised of the results.

* Volunteer Match: Helps link potential volunteers with more than 50,000 nonprofit organizations that need support.

* Idealist: A community for nonprofits to exchange ideas and resources, find groups that need help, and find volunteers and donors willing to provide support.

* Network for Good: Users can find and donate to more than a million charities and search from among more than 36,000 volunteer opportunities.

-- Zachary Goldfarb

By Dan Beyers  |  December 17, 2007; 7:10 AM ET
Previous: Wireless Startup Announces $1 Million in Funding | Next: Early Briefing: AOL Cuts Back On Local Donations


Please email us to report offensive comments.

The Grand Daddy of these types of social-good sites is (http:/// which has over 8 million members. They've got really active groups, a progressive member generated news service, click to donate sites, free email, great ecards, healthy living tips... you name it.

Posted by: Elizabeth S | December 18, 2007 12:59 PM

There is a new alternative for online fundraising, take a look at GiveStream ( ). It offers a set of free and easy-to-use online fundraising and community-building tools that help nonprofits create their own branded easy giving center.

Posted by: Michael Ben-Nes | December 20, 2007 2:36 AM

Dan - thanks so much for blogging about GlobalGiving and all of these great groups.

The $75,000 gift you mention from the Case Foundation is the America's Giving Challenge that GlobalGiving and Network for Good are also partnering on. It's a really neat Challenge, and an easy way to make a real difference to a cause.

We've got this short video that explains it quickly and concisely. Thought you might like to share with your readers

Thanks for all that you do!

Posted by: Alison | December 21, 2007 11:35 AM

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