Both the world of social media and the nonprofit sector have been buzzing this week about the long-awaited beta launch of Jumo, the new social media platform targeted at nonprofit organizations, charities, and their supporters. The service was founded by Chris Hughes, the co-creator of Facebook who left to run Barack Obama’s social media organizing initiative during the 2008 presidential campaign. In what seems to be a logical progression, he has now formed Jumo as his attempt to revolutionize the way in which nonprofit organizations and their supporters utilize social media.
Many nonprofit and charitable organizations have been quick to jump on board social media services such as Facebook and more recently Twitter. To a large degree, organizations were so eager to participate in the social web because the felt that it offered them a way of reaching a new audience of potential donors. The popular Facebook Causes application enabled organizations to make the same mistake with Facebook that they had already been making with their own websites: the “Donate Now” button. Often, this button is the largest and most prominent feature on an organization’s website or social media profile, and for the most part, the “Donate Now” button has proven an ineffective means of acquiring funds.
Jumo, taken from a Yoruba word meaning “coming together in concert,” aims to take a different approach. They acknowledge that the social web is not rife with would-be philanthropists desperately searching for a place to unload their wallets. Rather, donors give to organizations and causes that they have relationships with. Jumo seeks to build those relationships gradually over time. Eventually, those relationships may lead into a financial contribution (and Jumo does indeed have a “Donate Now” button to accommodate this, although it is not nearly as prominent as in other platforms), but they may also result in a donation of time or skills, and Jumo helps to facilitate these exchanges as well.
So will it work? That is the question that people have been fiercely debating this week. The Social Philanthropy blog of Philanthropy.com wisely offered two articles, one arguing why Jumo will succeed, and the other explaining why it will surely fail (and countless other writers and analysts have offered their opinions as well). Putting aside the fact that in its opening days Jumo faced seemingly countless technical glitches (the entire first day I was unable to stay connected long enough to complete the registration of my account), the service offers a lot to talk about.
Jumo does exactly what it advertises exceptionally well. As a user, you can follow individual organizations, or more general causes, which will help you to discover organizations that you might be interested in. You can also follow other supporters to see what causes your friends support. There is a social component that looks (not surprisingly considering the creator) a lot like Facebook–you have a wall where you can post status updates, and where friends can post comments. It does indeed seem like an ideal platform for growing a genuine community of support.
Additionally, the service makes it very easy for the organizations, who notoriously have precious little time to spend updating yet another social media profile. Organizations can simply feed in previously existing services like Facebook, Twitter, and RSS blog feeds. (As Beth Kanter points out, this will favor organizations already using social media.)
The only question is: Will people use it? The problem is that while Jumo is closely integrated with Facebook (it requires a Facebook account to even register), it is still a separate activity from checking your Facebook or Twitter or whatever else is already on your regular schedule, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t need yet another profile to check (particularly when all of the users on Jumo are also already on Facebook). Jumo does offer a wonderful way to keep tabs on different causes and organizations, and the interface is very well constructed. I will certainly be using the site any time I want to find out what a particular organization is up to, but I don’t anticipate it becoming a daily habit for most users. If they are smart, they will find a way to integrate completely with Facebook, completely replacing Facebook Causes, but until then I see them occupying a still very respectable secondary seat in its users’ social media arsenal.