Facebook should wield its powers for social good

Facebook should wield its powers for social good

Summary: Facebook is the world's largest, most far-reaching social network. So why isn't it doing more to bring awareness to nonprofits in need?


Earlier this week Facebook announced a major overhaul to its profile pages. The update was significant in the way that it allows people to share information and also in the way that profiles are now viewed. The profiles also now include the options to better highlight employers and co-workers, entertainment choices, favorite sports teams, as well as "people who inspire", and people can now create friend lists. Yet there seems to be one major item missing from the new, all-encompassing profiles: a place for Causes or supported charities.

Facebook is the world's largest, most far-reaching social network. It has a brand cache that many companies envy and it has the ability to spread messages faster than a speeding train. And for all of its efforts around Causes -- its application for facilitating giving between its users and nonprofits -- the giant still appears to put social giving on the back burner. While the new profile does highlight the above mentioned social items, it does not give users a section to truly highlight those nonprofits they support. If anything, they are buried.

I reached out to Facebook to inquire as to whether or not it has plans to do more for social good, asking specifically about the lack of Causes in the new profiles. I received the following from a Facebook spokesperson:

"Charities and causes are not currently a category of the new profile, however we encourage people to like or list the things they’re interested in to give a complete picture of who they are. For example, a person could add a philanthropist to the 'People who inspire you' section, like the Pages for the causes they support, and list their favorite charities in their 'activities and interests' section, all of which will be added to his or her profile."

The problem with this is that the charity is still buried. In my case, the charities that I support are mixed in with arbitrary items such as my favorite frozen yogurt shop, actors I admire, publications I read, and other random information. I'm a conservative "liker" and I still have 94 "other" likes to dig into. I have friends who have hundreds and hundreds of likes. How does lumping charities in here help with their promotion?

I understand that this is not an easy task for Facebook. There are countless Facebook pages, many of which are started as fundraisers on a whim. Although while tackling the individual nonprofits and their Facebook pages would require some additional hoops, there's no obvious reason as to why Facebook can't allow people to highlight in their profiles the official Causes that they support, as these are already confirmed by Facebook.

However, not everyone is a believer in Facebook's Causes, in general. Meg Fowler, co-founder of SM4SC, and a semi-new addition to the team at Sametz Blackstone Associates in Boston, a brand-focused communications consultancy that works with 80% non-profit clients, said that she advises clients to make their own pages and stay out of Causes altogether.

"I think Facebook does a very poor job of dealing with causes via Causes," she said. "I've never thought the way they integrated them was terribly useful or simple, especially for people who aren't tech-savvy but still want to share what they care about, and stay aware of other opportunities to do good things."

Fowler also agrees that Facebook should do a better job of using its reach and built-in networking functions to raise awareness for charities.

"The best way Mark Zuckerberg could support charities is making them a front-and-center, easy-to-use facet of a Facebook profile, not by making a token, largely unsupported effort. Facebook should wield its powers for social good," she said.

Case in point: the causes application currently only has upwards of 17 million active users. This is a small percentage of Facebook's hundreds of millions of users. With Causes being buried in an application with marginal use and charity Facebook pages being lumped in with random likes, outside of the occasional news feed link, there is currently little way for nonprofits to truly spread their word on Facebook.

I spend a good portion of my time thinking about ways to help nonprofits. Along with Michael Brito and Gabriel Carrejo, my partners in Silicon Valley Tweetup, I think about ways to support family-oriented charities all year round. Despite my criticisms of Facebook I am an avid user; it's become my safe space for keeping up with family and friends. I just wish it would do more to bring to the forefront those nonprofits that truly need our support rather than focusing the majority of its efforts on ways to integrate corporations and driving its own business.

Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • RE: Facebook should wield its powers for social good

    Their product alone does more for the world than any charity ever has. Their moral act was producing a valuable product. Why do people over look this massive aspect when looking a big companies. The act of producing values like Apple, Microsoft, and even Walmart increase our quality of life and saves more lives than any non profit has ever done. Let us not overlook the morality of being productive. Bill Gates giving money to all those charities every year is NOT what makes him moral, its his productive achievement of a product that has and will continue for generations to increase our quality of life.
    • RE: Facebook should wield its powers for social good

      @Raysgulch I don't agree. At all. Starting a company is not grounds for automatic "moral fiber" but morals are a different story. Facebook has an opportunity to use its massive reach to help provide a vehicle for true nonprofits to get better visibility. Facebook has been focused on growing its own business, which is good and good for them, but it could do more with its resources to truly help the charitable aspect of social media.
      Jennifer Leggio
      • But then would you be the first to slam them

        if it turns out some of those charitable orginizations are scams, which we know will happen?

        Why even invite that type of bad publicity?
        John Zern
      • RE: Facebook should wield its powers for social good

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    • I guess I'll have to shrug on that one


  • RE: Facebook should wield its powers for social good

    I agree with Jennifer on more than one issue here...which is why I launched JackTheDonkey.com...with the evergrowing popularity of social-networking, there is an opportunity emerging for people to be social while simultaneously supporting & bringing attention to charities we should all be supporting more regularly: <a href="http://www.jackthedonkey.com/Organization.aspx" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.jackthedonkey.com/Organization.aspx</a>
  • RE: Facebook should wield its powers for social good

    Why ?? When did business become a vehicle for social work ? I believe that business is built to make money not to do social work or provide health care or any of the other myriad of things people seem to think that business is supposed to do. If facebook or any other business allows such things as charities to be listed then thats great for them however there is no reason for them to need to do such things. When the company decides it's in their interest to start some of the things you mention then they will. We as private individuals have no ight to tell them what they can or should do with their business.
  • Two edged sword.

    Facebook is indeed a great networking tool, but never forget, you are the product and the advertisers are the customers. To paraphrase Dilbert, they would kill you in your sleep and sell your organs for huge profits if they could, as Mark Z has shown by their regular and repeated privacy violations.
  • RE: kraterz, Two edged sword.

    I agree completely. In an alternate world he probably would sell our organs, if it were not morally wrong in todays society. I'm a FB addict, I admit it, but if something better comes along then hell yes, I am switching social network asap. I've been looking at MyCube a lot, seems like a possible success. If not, I'd give Diaspora a shot.
  • Sauce for the goose

    Then should charities put up free advertising for Facebook as well?

    Where does the idea that a non-profit is more moral than a for profit company come from? It is a tax category. The KKK is probably a non-profit but it doesn't make it a force for good.
    • RE: Facebook should wield its powers for social good

      @jtdavies There is NO evidence the KKK is a nonprofit organization, so please stop perpetrating lies.

      Secondly, a non-profit is much more than a tax designation. IRS rules regulate how revenue is spent, how much Executive Directors can be compensated, and most importantly (for distinction purposes) an organization's lobbying limits. For profit, by defintion, puts profit above all else, including morals. And according to the latest Supreme Court ruling, a for-profit can spend as much of their time and resources as they'd like to elect politicians and influence public policy - for their own benefit, of course.
      • RE: Facebook should wield its powers for social good


        I guess my use of the word probably skipped your notice. But can you explain how the KKK would be excluded from being a non-profit if they fulfilled the reporting regulations?
  • RE: Facebook should wield its powers for social good

    I'm curious why folks are surprised at this. After all, Facebook is also a bastion for hate groups.
    Liam SWz
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  • RE: Facebook should wield its powers for social good

    never going to happen...especially now that they have financial expectations of The Street guiding them...so try http://talkic.com if you are looking to join a social network for social change, where contributing to topics actually benefits causes: http://talkic.com/Register1.aspx