Facebook celebrates birthday fundraisers

Facebook celebrated the one-year anniversary of its birthday fundraiser feature last week with a big announcement.

During the first year, Facebook users raised more than $300 million for causes they care about using the birthday feature.

If you missed doing this for your own birthday, here’s how it works. Two weeks before your birthday, Facebook will begin posting messages in your Feed with an option for creating a fundraiser.

You might recall seeing notifications from your friends who initiated this feature, with invitations for you to support their causes on their special day.

The list of causes to support on Facebook is seemingly endless. You can pick from one of 750-thousand nonprofits based in the U.S. available for fundraising on Facebook.

According to Facebook, many users expressed an interest in wanting to dedicate their birthdays to a good cause, but those users also expressed some frustration in choosing from the enormous list of available nonprofits on the platform.

“To make this easier, we will soon provide more information: when you click on a nonprofit in the list, you can learn more about the organization, their mission, location and how many people like their Page,” said Asha Sharma, Facebook’s Head of Product for Social Good.

“We also plan to share more relevant information, like popular search terms in the nonprofit selection tool.”

Top beneficiaries of birthday fundraisers for the inaugural year included an eclectic, well known collection of non-profit organizations: St. Jude, Alzheimer’s Association, the American Cancer Society, Share Our Strength – No Kid Hungry, ASPCA.

Sure, it’s a feel-good Facebook feature that takes very little work on our part to launch, but it could generate some much-needed funds for other, lesser-known organizations.

It could also have an unintended outcome: leading your friends to learn more about those smaller nonprofits.

According to Sharma, celebrities are leveraging the Facebook birthday feature to mobilize their fans. For example, NBA star Stephen Curry, raised over $82,000 during his 30th birthday for Nothing But Nets to help combat childhood malaria.

Madonna used her 60th birthday to generate funds for Raising Malawi’s work at Home of Hope orphanage located in a rural, high-need area of Malawi.

“Based on feedback from the community, we added new tools to nonprofit fundraisers, like the ability to match donations and add organizers to your fundraiser,” Sharma added.

For example, if you’re a Facebook “Page” administrator – including Pages run by brands, public figures, and nonprofits – you can now create and donate to fundraisers.

“And we added a tool so people can make recurring monthly donations to the organizations and causes that are important to them,” Sharma said.

One of the best parts of the fundraising feature? Facebook started waiving fees in November 2017, so that 100 percent of all donations go directly to the nonprofits we’re supporting.

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.

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