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Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes officially launches Jumo, social network for social activism

November 29, 2010 |  9:00 pm

Status update from Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and the social media whiz kid behind Barack Obama's presidential campaign: On Tuesday he officially launched Jumo.

Hughes describes Jumo as a social network for social activism. The idea behind Jumo is to help people discover causes that matter to them and to their friends and, over time, deepen their ties to those causes, he said in an interview.

That would realize an elusive goal for nonprofits and charitable organizations. Jumo_Home page Social networking has yet to deliver on its promise of connecting individuals and nonprofits to raise money for causes more efficiently and less expensively than traditional means. Internet fundraising still lags behind direct mail, events and other ways of soliciting donations. Of the $263 billion that Americans give to charity each year, 5.7% is given online, according to Blackbaud Inc.'s index of online giving, which tracks fundraising. Of that, less than 1% comes from social media, estimated Steve MacLaughlin, director of Internet solutions at Blackbaud. But social networking has become increasingly effective at "friend-raising," as in gaining supporters and engaging them in dialogue about a cause.

Enter Hughes, 27, dubbed "the kid who made Obama president." He's reaching out to "friend" the nonprofit world.

Hughes said Jumo, which means "to come together," is trying to make it easier for people to discover, follow and support the causes that are meaningful to them and to their friends, family members and colleagues. The hope is that, over time, people will form a deeper relationship with and commitment to those causes. It is similar in concept and intent to Causes.com, which was started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s roommate Joe Green and former Facebook President Sean Parker.

Hughes raised $3.5 million from the Omidyar Network, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation as well as individuals to fund Jumo, which is a nonprofit. Those organizations have placed their faith in Hughes because he has already proved that he knows how to build online community and to inspire people to take action.

Chris Bishko, director of investments at Omidyar Network, said Hughes could help nonprofits "unlock massive potential."

Hughes was a key player in the evolution of online social networks. He helped Zuckerberg start Facebook in their Harvard dorm room. He was nicknamed the Empath for creating popular new features that enriched the experience for Facebook users. In 2007, Hughes split off to use those skills to build the online brand and community of a young U.S. senator, Barack Obama, helping catapult the rising political star into the White House.

Now Hughes is betting he can take that same idea of a network of volunteers that became such a potent political force and apply it to the issues that trouble the world. He also expects that he can drum up the same kind of enthusiasm for saving the environment, ending child trafficking and fighting AIDS that Facebook users have shown for tagging friends in photos, writing on their walls or harvesting virtual crops.

Chris Hughes_Jumo How it works: You log into Jumo.com with your Facebook account. A quick survey helps steer you to organizations that match your interests or those of your friends, even your location if you want. Your Jumo home page and a weekly e-mail offer the latest news from those organizations including Twitter updates, YouTube videos, news articles and comments from Facebook friends. About 3,500 organizations are on the site at the outset but anyone "with a mission" can create a page. Only those with tax-exempt status can solicit donations. Nonprofits will get a much better sense of who gives them the most support, Hughes said. Over time, he plans to make more information about Jumo users available to them. The site could potentially benefit smaller charities which don't have in-house social media experts.

What Jumo does not do: hit up users for money. At least not right away. Soliciting donations is a step that should take place once someone becomes more engaged in a cause, Hughes said.

"We are not trying to build another donation platform. We are really focused on building a social network where you can find compelling projects and issues and connect with them in a way that will be lasting," Hughes said. "I don't believe you can start with a donate page and expect people to whip out their credit cards and click donate. It takes time for people to get to know a cause or an organization."

One potential challenge: At a time when Internet users are wrestling with privacy concerns, Jumo will be testing just how much they will be comfortable sharing about their personal beliefs and donations with the world.

Jumo will rely on payments from users and sponsorships from organizations that want to be promoted on the website. It will also have to rely on the powerful viral nature of Facebook to get more people interested in its new service and to mobilize them to move past just "liking" something to supporting it with their time and money.

So far, about 65,000 people have signed up for Jumo's e-mail list and an additional 20,000 have connected to Jumo on Twitter and Facebook. It will take a much bigger online village than that to change the world.

Related:

After Facebook and Obama, Chris Hughes launches nonprofit Jumo

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Spreading the spirit of giving

-- Jessica Guynn

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