News and analysis
March 18, 2010

Facebook Co-Founder Starts Philanthropic Social-Networking Site

One of the whiz kids behind Facebook is turning his attention to the nonprofit world.

Chris Hughes co-founded the social-networking giant with two roommates as a Harvard undergraduate, and later served as director of online organizing for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Today Mr. Hughes, now 26, announced that his next project will be Jumo, a new social network set to start in the fall that will help people find causes and nonprofit organizations that they care about.

“People have a genuine desire to engage with the world around them in a meaningful way, but the Internet just hasn’t yet caught up with that desire yet,” he said in an interview.

Jumo—which means "together in concert” in Yoruba, a West African language­—will be designed to take advantage of content that has already been created elsewhere and offer robust tools for sharing content, says Mr. Hughes.

“The last thing I want to do is add yet another site to a nonprofit’s plate,” he says. “I don’t want them to have to go to yet another destination to share who they are and the work that they’re doing.”

Jumo incorporated as a nonprofit organization this year, and has applied for tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service.

The organization hopes to raise a little more than $2-million to start the site. Mr. Hughes says the group has raised more than $500,000 from individuals so far and has had early talks with several grant makers, including the Ford, John S. and James L. Knight, and Rockefeller Foundations.

Wide-Ranging Questions

Jumo seeks in the coming months to attract visitors who will help the site make it easier for people to find opportunities to give, volunteer, and advocate in ways that best suit their interests.

People who visit the site now and express interest in finding out more are asked a series of wide-ranging questions that gauges their personal interests, likes and dislikes, and political beliefs.

Among the questions:

• “Would you say the world is getting better or worse?”

• “Which of these places would you most like to visit? Argentina, France, India, or Kenya?”

• “On Sunday, are you most likely to be: at brunch, at church, at a museum, or watching the big game?”

The site will analyze how people who had similar answers respond to different causes and different giving and volunteering opportunities, and then use the information to determine what is most likely to appeal to them.

The main objective, says Mr. Hughes, is to connect people to the issues and organizations that are likely to interest them as quickly as possible.

“What I want to do is reach a point where people can’t say, 'I want to help. I don’t know any good, meaningful opportunities to do so. What can I do?’” he says. “I want to create a world where that statement is no longer possible.”