IT intelligence: Facebook

Robin Fisk continues his new technology series with a review of Facebook.

This week I look at a well-known website and assess its potential value to charities. I'm hardly going out on a limb when I suggest it's going to be important - that would be like saying Roger Federer looks like a handy tennis player. But it is difficult to ignore Facebook and its likely impact on charity fundraising.

Originally created for Harvard students, it was opened up to all in September last year. As of July, it had 30 million users, and was adding four million new users a month. It is a social networking website where you create a personal profile, join groups, link up with friends, communicate with them and express yourself. It also allows you to create applications (or apps) that you can add to your profile, enriching the experience for those who then add them to their own profiles.

More than 2,200 apps exist, including the causes app, which lets you align yourself to a cause and give money to it. However, the recipient beneficiary has to be a registered US non-profit, payments are made through a US payment gateway and another 1.5 per cent goes to the app's author.

Recruitment of your friends to the cause is encouraged and recognised, as are your own donations. Justgiving has created a Facebook app to complement its online giving service, and Amnesty International has a GoodStorm Make Some Noise app.

So why is it important to charities? It's an opportunity for charities to engage with a traditionally difficult market: younger people who socialise largely online. Dorothy Donor isn't online yet (I checked), but tomorrow's donors are.

How do you get started? Add your charity to the causes app if you have a US-registered partner (the UK version is likely to emerge soon); or maybe develop your own app that has a direct link to your cause - and doesn't involve paying a commission.

- Robin Fisk is managing director of software company Fisk Brett.

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