Unravelling Facebook Causes

I just had to sit down and untangle this Facebook “hairball” (one of many I might add) because, if it’s understood and used correctly, it can be great tool not only for you but for an organization that decides to support a cause.

So… here goes… 5 minutes to becoming an expert at Facebook causes.

First, a couple of facts.

From the point of view of the organization looking to raise money through causes, the Facebook application called “Causes” organizes itself into a hierarchy.

At the bottom of this hierarchy is the organization that receives the funds. They are called, in causes terms, the Beneficiary.

A Beneficiary must be a 501(c)3, non-profit organization that is registered with Guidestar and, as part of it’s profile, have enabled “on-line donations”.

This is required because a lot of the information that Causes obtains and passes on through Facebook is obtained from the Guidestar database.

The next step up the foodchain is the cause.

A cause can be created by anyone (including the owner of the Beneficiary). Causes are then “affiliated” or associated with a Beneficiary. This affiliation enables a Facebook user to join a cause or donate to a cause and enables the donations to flow through the cause to the Beneficiary.

From a Beneficiary point of view, this scheme enables one or more causes to be associated with a single beneficiary. For example, if I am part of a non-profit beneficiary called “Save The Forests”, I (or any other Facebook user) can start a cause that benefits Save The Forests. I can can start a cause called “Plant A Tree” so others can donate to that cause (and benefit Save The Forests). Other Facebook users who are interested in what Save The Forests does can also start a cause. For example, Joe (who I may have never met) can start a cause called “1000 Trees” that also benefits Save The Forests. The “social idea” here is that if Joe believes in the cause that he created, so will his friends on Facebook.

Creating causes in not some uncontrolled process. A key to the whole thing working is the concept of “affiliation”. In order for Joe’s cause to benefit my Beneficiary, Joe has to request that his cause become “affiliated” with my Beneficiary. If I approve the affiliation request, then all is well. If I don’t (perhaps because Joe’s cause doesn’t quite match my brand), I can reject the affiliation. This frees Joe to affiliate his cause with some other organization if he wants to.

So… if you are a beneficiary, here are a couple of rules to follow when using Facebook..

  1. First, make sure your organization is registered with Guidestar. Guidestar checks out the legitimacy of who you are an if you have all the proper paperwork and approvals filed. They get a lot of their information from the IRS who is the gatekeeper of al things 501(c)3
  2. Go to http://nonprofits.causes.com and register your organization as a beneficiary. This page is your interface with the company that writes and maintains the causes application on Facebook. Use this tool to make sure that your Beneficiary is well described and that the associated graphics represent who you are. Also make sure that you make yourself an administrator / owner of this beneficiary. The Facebook causes application pulls its information from the causes.com site.
  3. As a Facebook user, create at least one cause and affiliate it with your beneficiary. Make sure that you are the administrator of this cause and make sure that the description and images you associate with the cause reflects the purpose of the cause.
  4. As the owner of the beneficiary, approve the affiliate request that you sent to the cause.
  5. Change your profile so that this cause appears as your primary cause.
  6. Invite your friends to join the cause and send out information to members of this cause as you see fit.

That’s it!

Happy causing!