One Good Idea: Virtual Gifting
You probably know Facebook as a social-networking site that allows people to connect with friends, co-workers and classmates; upload photographs; share links and videos; and join community networks that mirror their interests.
But Facebook now is stepping into the fundraising field by allowing users to buy virtual gifts or icons to send to their friends to benefit charity.
Launched in February to coincide with Valentine’s Day, the Facebook Gift Shop began selling 28 icons designed by Macintosh Computer Icon Designer Susan Kare for $1 each. Members can give gifts privately or publicly. Public gifts go in the recipient’s Gift Box, and the message sent with the gift goes on the recipient’s Wall, i.e., Facebook profile. Private gifts go into the recipient’s Gift Box where they can be seen by others but do not reveal the gift giver.
To generate buzz about the icons, Facebook members were offered promotions such as their first gift for free or three icons for a dollar.
According to Meredith Chin, coordinator of corporate communications for Facebook, more than 7 million gifts were either given away or sold in February, with 50 cents of every icon sold going to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a network of breast-cancer survivors and activists devoted to eradicating the disease.
Chin says Facebook chose to work with Susan G. Komen for the Cure after it “discovered that the largest [user-organized] cause-related group on Facebook is dedicated to breast cancer awareness, with more than 800,000 members.”
“We used to do carnations and candy grams … around Valentine’s Day, and I just saw this as a great way to reach young people of America in a way that they communicate today,” says Carrie Hodges, manager of cause marketing and manager of the Facebook relationship for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
While the February Gift Shop launch was Facebook’s first foray into e-philanthropy, it also was Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s first experience with the site. At checkout, icon purchasers could click on a link to go to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure site to learn more about the organization. But Hodges says the organization now is working on putting together a Komen group on Facebook to expand its presence there.
It will offer members a place where they can host a service in memory of someone who died from breast cancer or in honor of someone who survived or is battling the disease; provide tips on how to reduce the risk of breast cancer; and, in general, raise awareness of the organization.
“We really feel like the youth of America today are so philanthropically minded that we really appreciate any opportunity we can to get in front of them so they can learn more about breast cancer, especially from a prevention standpoint,” Hodges says. “If they can learn how to live healthier lives, then maybe that will help us fulfill our promise to end breast cancer forever.
“So far it’s been a great relationship,” she adds. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback … and we were just thrilled at being able to reach millions of young people in a space that’s comfortable for them.”
According to Chin, Facebook plans to expand the Gift Shop program to include other nonprofit organizations as well.
For more information, www.facebook.com.