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Former President Clinton asks supporters to make his birthday wish come true

August 11, 2010 |  1:59 pm

Clinton For his 64th birthday, former President Clinton has a wish. And he is turning to the Internet to ask supporters to help make it come true by giving money to help fight childhood obesity and climate change and encourage entrepreneurship and economic opportunity.

He’s using the “birthday wish” feature created by Berkeley-based startup Causes. The Clinton Foundation is working with Causes to encourage supporters to use social media to take action on issues that are important to them, said Causes founder and President Joe Green.

“Not only are we hoping to raise funds for the important work undertaken by the Clinton Foundation, but we hope to inspire our users to follow the president’s example when it is their own birthday, and donate it to charity,” Green said.

It used to be that you would blow out the candles on a birthday cake and silently make a wish. Causes, which helps people raise awareness and money for their favorite causes, has upended that tradition, encouraging people to broadcast their wishes on the Web. Its birthday wish feature has transformed personal fundraising, helping 75,000 people raise more than $6.5 million from their friends. That’s a pretty big feat given how hard it used to be for people to ask their friends for money, Green said.

“The only time that works well is around an event, like a marathon. But the problem with that is the real world event is very expensive to put on and has high overhead,” Green said. “The holy grail is helping people to raise money from their friends without the high overhead.”

Clinton is the first major public figure to participate in the birthday wish program. Here, and here, are examples of previous birthday wishes.

Causes, which has 100 million users, and other startups have harnessed the power of the Internet to give nonprofits a new way to reach supporters, leveling the playing field for smaller operations that cannot afford expensive fundraising campaigns. One nonprofit in particular, called Charity: water, has successfully raised money this way. High-profile supporters of Charity:water such as Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Spotify’s Shakil Khan have helped build wells in Ethiopia by asking their friends to support efforts to bring clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations.

-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: Bill Clinton, former U.S. President and United Nations special envoy to Haiti, greets workers during a visit to a sugar cane factory in Leogane, Haiti, last week. Credit: Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press

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