Debates have been raging for months now about the contributions that social media is making to disaster response. The American Red Cross even teamed up last week with Dell to create a Digital Operations Center that uses social networks, microblogs and other social technologies to help with emergency response and disaster relief ("Tracking a #tornado with Twitter?")
Social networks could also play a big role in cause-focused and political fundraising, according to start-up Fundly, a platform that lets you put your various social networks to work for a cause.
Founded in 2009 by serial entrepreneur Dave Boyce (who sold his third startup to Oracle in 2005), the site aims to tackle one of the biggest challenges of fundraising—getting the word out via social networks.
"Increasingly, that's where the people are," Boyce said. Boyce was motivated to focus on this problem for a pretty simple reason: he has six children. Imagine all those school fundraisers and all the door-to-door legwork and emails!
To publicize a fundraising effort, the organizer first must create an account and specific campaign offer. That information can then be shared on email or Twitter, or embedded into a Facebook page or even into a Web site or blog. When people in your social network contribute, you receive an alert so you can thank them, and the information is also shared again. So, reminders keep happening without you needing to do anything about it.
So what makes Fundly different than an online fundraising site like Firstgiving.com, which has raised more than $1 billion over its lifetime?
For Boyce, it comes down to one big thing: integration with social media. "There were efforts that were struggling with the ease-of-use thing," he said. "Our focus is on enabling organizations, regardless of their size or budget." So, you might use Fundly for a personal cause.
Fundly takes 4.9 percent of every transaction up to a certain transaction ceiling; 1.9 percent goes to Fundly and the rest goes for the transaction services that sit behind the Web 2.0 service. So, you will still have to live with the fact that you're going to need to pay a fee to donate to a social cause in this manner, rather than if you per paying by a check. If you are raising thousands of dollars per month, your organization might pay a flat fee, starting at $199 per month.
One thing that interested me was whether or not businesses might be able to use Fundly to manage causes on behalf of their employees. Indeed, Boyce said he has spoken with a number of organizations that are assessing whether to use Fundly as a better way to manage matching donations for their employees or to rally employees around certain corporate-backed causes. "Or, they might simply be able to rally their teams around an internal social project," Boyce said.
To date, Fundly has collected more than $238 million on behalf of candidates and causes. It is being used by more than 1,200 organizations including household names such as Habitat for Humanity Global and Boys and Girls Clubs.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com