May 23, 2011 • By

Facebook helps good causes

When you run what bills itself as “the world’s largest platform for activism and philanthropy,” you know a thing or two about getting people to do something in the name of a good cause.

The attendees at the 2011 International Corporate Citizenship Conference who listened to a presentation by Joe Green, the CEO of Causes, were no doubt inspired by his ideas and outlook for online giving.

“Most people want to be engaged in the act of giving – they want that feeling,” Green said. “When people can feel that connection, that connection to real empowerment, it’s sort of a life-changing thing.”

You’re probably familiar with Causes if you’re on Facebook and have seen the numerous ways you can use the Causes application to support a cause that one of your friends has alerted you to.

“We call this a giving marketplace, where we’re trying to move from a siloed world where everyone is on a bunch of mailing lists,” said Green. “We’re trying to move to more of a marketplace that’s centered around the individual giver, where the giver is being presented with interesting opportunities to take action via friends, via one of the 600,000 cause communities they might be in, via fundraising projects and specific initiatives they can donate to, via petition, via media, etc…”

Green was one of the first people to work on Facebook in its infancy – his Harvard roommate was Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. He then co-founded Causes in 2007, which now boasts of raising $140 million since its start.

“The thing that I care about as the CEO of Causes is that my 150 million users have as many ways as possible to make a positive impact,” Green said. “They want to be able to come to our site and be presented with lots of interesting, cool and easy things that they can do to make an impact.”

Join My Village, an organization created by the General Mills Foundation and CARE, has used Causes. In its various online efforts, by the end of 2011, Join My Village members and partnering companies will have invested more than $2 million to send girls in Malawi to school, build homes for teachers, and help women start businesses to support their families and communities.

“On Causes, I think Join My Village has been a really great example,” said Green.

The conference session that Green participated in on April 12 was titled “How Business is Harnessing the Power of Social Media.” Green was joined by Ellen Luger, vice president and executive director of the General Mills Foundation; Colin Moffett, senior vice president of Digital Communications at Weber Shandwick; and James Windon, business development director for Causes.

Jeff Peterson, the director of Innovation & Strategy at the General Mills Foundation, moderated the panel.