As my birthday neared last month I received an email from the Facebook "Causes" application, suggesting that I could put a Birthday Wish on my FB page to gather donations for a favorite charity in lieu of birthday gifts. At first I was reluctant to participate. I tend to dislike FB apps and I don't want to annoy my FB friends with frivolous emails or requests. However, I let the idea gel for a few days and then decided that it might be worth fundraising for HandReach, a non-profit that provides and education and medical care for children in China. When my friend Brecken (who works for HandReach) visited a few weeks ago I felt drawn to her stories of the children who were severely burned or disabled and were in need of prosthetics to replace missing limbs.
So I decided to jump in and do it, despite my initial hesitancy. As I logged onto the application it gave me many options for my "wish," including setting a suggested donation amount ($38 because I was turning 38 years old), sending out individual messages to each of my FB friends, letting the application take over my status messages for the duration of the fundraising, and setting a reasonable campaign goal (I chose $380 thinking that maybe 10 of my friends might want to contribute).
What ensued blew me away.
I met my $380 goal within a few hours, then upped it to $600 and met that quickly, too. I then set the seemingly unreachable goal of $1000 and met that long before my actual birthday. What an amazing experience it was to see the donations and well-wishes pouring in from friends near and far.
Words aren't enough to tell you how much joy it brought to be a part of this campaign and to experience the goodness and generosity of my friends. And I'd call this a tremendous success story for the potential of social media. While I think Facebook and Twitter can be huge time-wasters, they also have HUGE potential for connecting groups of likeminded people for doing good. We saw this with the impact of social media on the last election and I'm sure that we will continue to see its ripple effects in the months and years to come. It's invigorating (even seductive) to participate in these forms of media and to get a feel for their immediacy and power.
After the hoopla of my Birthday Wish was over, one of the developers of the Causes application contacted me about the success of my fundraising efforts. From her I learned that my Wish had earned more funding than most, and they wanted learn why I was so successful. In a nutshell, these were my thoughts:
I picked this particular organization because they give money for medical care to amputees in China--I am an amputee myself so this is a Cause that I'm passionate about and that most of my friends have sympathy for through my experiences. My advice to those who are considering a Birthday Wish is to choose an organization that reflects your own experiences and interests--so your friends will feel invested in supporting your Cause.
One reason I believe I received so many donations is that I not only had FB announcing my Cause, but I also did daily blogposts leading up to my birthday about my Wish, I tweeted the link daily, which was 're-tweeted' by some friends.
I found myself incredibly satisfied with the overall functionality of the Causes application and would encourage each of you to consider a Birthday Wish campaign. I look forward to seeing what Cause would motivate you to forgo birthday presents, and wish the developers of this application the best of luck in their efforts in using Facebook for such positive ends.