Facebook causes: not there yet

MS Society Awareness Week Causes Page

MS Society Awareness Week Causes Page

I can understand why the Causes application of Facebook hasn’t been very successful as a fundraising mechanism for charitable causes and organizations.  (Under the “Find Causes” feature, you can look at the “lifetime” results for specific causes in terms of members joined and money raised through Facebook.  Four-and-a-half million members have joined the most popular cause, “Support the O Campaign for Cancer Prevention”, but only about $83,000 has been donated – through Facebook, at least.)  Earlier this week, I received an invitation from a friend, Frankie Harper, to join the National MS Society MS Awareness Week.  I followed the invite and was taken to a fairly sparse page (obviously a template), the right column of which was created by the national organization to promote their awareness week in early March (read more here).

What didn’t I like about it?  Lots – but especially the lack of a “because”.  It did not give me a reason to care about this cause other than the fact my friend encouraged it.  I wasn’t sure what you were supposed to do next, but I found the subtle “join” feature and clicked it.

MS Society Causes Confirmation Page

I liked the confirmation page a little better.  It encouraged me to invite others with a large, easy-to-understand application.  But – note this – I didn’t encourage others to get involved because nothing had really moved me other than the desire to support a friend.

I also had the option of adding a bookmark on my own profile, so I did that.  But again, pretty disappointing when I looked at the changes on my own page.  Yes, I can find info about the cause, but only if I click on one of the many options that Facebook gives me or a friend.  I thought it might be more prominent if I added Causes as a tab, but that requires me to create or list my own cause.

The fact that I joined the cause was prominently displayed on my Wall, and I got to add a comment, but (at the rate of Wall messages) I know that will be invisible within a day or two as it drops from “Today” to “Yesterday” and then “The Dark Ages” (no, it really doesn’ t have a dark ages category, but it might as well, at the rate of Facebook Wall updates).

What would be better?  How about the ability to pick a Facebook profile layout that is made for people who want to promote Causes?  How about the option to include a badge on your Profile page?  How about a much more compelling way to describe the Cause and present it – from the invitation through the landing page through the confirmation?

For now, anyway, Facebook is sticking to its knitting – which is connecting friends.  Period.  It doesn’t seem to be trying to compete with Twitter as a means of raising money.  And if you’re looking for a web-based tool to ask your contacts to give, you’d be better off considering something like firstgiving.org, which claims to have helped 1.5 million people raise almost $84 million for 21,000 nonprofits.

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