Facebook Causes has been running a giving challenge over the last 49 days. The contest, sponsored by The Case Foundation, has been phenomenally interesting to watch. The challenge is simple: what Facebook cause can collect the donations from the most unique individuals over the course of 50 days. There are smaller contests for you can get the most donors in a 24 hour period, but tomorrow the contest will conclude and the first prize of $50,000 will be awarded.
What’s interesting about the challenge is the groups that have engaged it. The lead for the total prize has gone back and forth for the last few weeks between Students for a Free Tibet, an organization that I have been working with for eight years (two years full time on staff), and an Oklahoma-based organization called Love Without Boundaries, which works with Chinese orphans.
The challenge ends tomorrow at 3 PM Eastern and it looks like it will go right down to the wire.
My friends at SFT are running a live stream of their efforts organizing to continue to turn out donors on a new site called Mogulus. Their use of Mogulus is by itself an incredibly savvy way to drive traffic to their Facebook page.
The Tibetan Freedom Movement, SFT’s cause for the giving challenge, has over 4,750 members. 2,190 of those members have donated at least once, and counting. Since I took the screen cap five minutes ago, 150 more people have donated in support of Tibetan freedom. That is one of the highest members to donors conversation rates on Facebook causes. Over the last 49 days, SFT has raised over $60,000 through the challenge, including enough individual donations in 24 hour periods to win nine days.
Students for a Free Tibet is not a big organization. When I worked there, only four other people were on staff in the New York headquarters (now there are six staffers in HQ). In my years, the annual budget was around $350,000; it was closer to $400,000 this year. If SFT wins out in the challenge, they will likely have raised over 25% of their budget in 50 days, a truly incredible output for such a small organization. By contrast, LWB had a budget of $1.2 million last year, four times larger than SFT.
What makes the Facebook Causes challenge interesting is how it has driven organizations like SFT to put in energy to attract new donors. I’ve been able to get a lot of my friends and family to donate, in part because asking for $10 that can be turned into $50,000 is pretty easy. Beyond the small ask, SFT is small enough that the amount of money being raised and up for grabs in the top prize is great enough that it is worth the effort for the staff to put a great deal of energy recruiting more donors. No large organizations or their supporters are pursuing this prize (though the League of Young Voters briefly did).
SFT is doing really creative things to bring in new donors. Campuses around the world have tabled with laptops and wifi to get people to donate on the spot. There have been donation parties. Last night in New York, there was a happy hour* with laptops set up in the bar and people on hand to help facilitate Facebook novices to install the Causes application. People are asking friends and family – this week both my parents joined Facebook and donated to SFT. The contest has been an incentive to innovate and do outreach in new ways and SFT has clearly risen to the challenge.
Winning the Facebook Causes challenge and getting the $50,000 grand prize would also be remarkable for the fact that SFT has never received a single donation that large in its entire existence. Only once has SFT received a grant larger than $50,000. This is not a wealthy organization, but they know how to make every penny count.
With all that in mind, I’m pulling for SFT and will be helping them however I can. I hope regular readers of this site will consider donating $10 to the Tibetan Freedom Movement by 3 PM Eastern tomorrow through Facebook.
If you’re a Facebook member, just go to this link and donate: http://apps.facebook.com/causes/view_cause/47691. Your $10 could be worth $50,000 by this time tomorrow.
*The New York Times utterly failed to grasp the diverse ways SFT supporters are raising money. They described a “keg party” which didn’t exist (it’s unclear if it was the NY happy hour or a gathering in Montreal that had mentioned there would be beer and other refreshments offered). The NYT article gives no attention to why SFT was having success with its student donor base, nor did they bother to contact SFT to talk about what was being done to keep pace with the larger LWB. It’s my understanding that SFT is pursuing a correction to the Times article and will be submitting a letter to the editor in response to their shoddy and potentially outcome-changing article.