November 16, 2010

Small Charities Could Get Big Lift From New Social Network

Small charities may get a leg up on social media over the nation's biggest nonprofits if Chris Hughes has anything to say about it.

The co-founder of Facebook and the online architect of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential run says that his highly anticipated social-media platform for the nonprofit world, Jumo, will not necessarily promote organizations that are the most followed or the most popular.

"We're all really sensitive about not just promoting the most popular organizations or the organizations that have a lot of name recognition," Mr. Hughes, Jumo's executive director, says in an interview with The Chronicle. "The reason we got into Jumo in the first place is we saw literally millions of small to medium-size organizations all across the world, and they had a much harder time struggling to adapt to the social Web than large organizations that have brand recognition, larger budgets, more capacity to invest."

Mr. Hughes says Jumo, which is set to make its public debut on November 30,  is designed to give donors the ability to discover and connect with charities or causes they may be interested in--and give charities a way to easily manage and develop relationships with potential supporters. In a way, Jumo seeks to be an organizational dashboard to help people get involved in the nonprofit world, Mr. Hughes says.

They can easily pull from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, and blogs and have information from all those sources appear on their own Jumo page. "It's built to go in tandem with existing services—not replace them but offer the opportunity for people to use Jumo for their home base," Mr. Hughes says.

One thing that won't be easy, at least not right away: donating money to a charity you learned about on Jumo.

Mr. Hughes wants everyone to first get used to the new online platform and to learn about the charities on Jumo.

"We don't expect people to come in and start by donating and end by donating," Mr. Hughes says. "We expect people to be curious about a cause or an organization, and then over the course of a few weeks or a few months get to know that cause. Then at a point where they feel inspired or compelled or they feel that sense of responsibility, then we hope that they will take real action on behalf of those causes and for those organizations."

Mr. Hughes says that the vetting of organizations that appear on the site will be done mainly by Jumo's followers, who can flag any groups that don't conform to the community's culture, such as potential scammers or organizations that use inappropriate or offensive content. "I feel a personal responsibility to make sure that any user on Jumo, particularly when it comes to donating, knows that their money is going to a legit group," he says.

Jumo will rely on donations from  the people who use its site as well as sponsors to generate revenue, Mr. Hughes says.

But will organizations and individuals gravitate toward yet another form of social media? That should become apparent in a few weeks or months.

To learn more, view The Chronicle's interview with Chris Hughes, founder and executive director of Jumo.