Will Facebook’s new Open Graph change the way people support causes?

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Last week, Facebook announced some sweeping changes to the way it interacts with social applications. Here’s one: instead of requiring users to “Like” content or manually post updates each time they want to share content, applications can now write directly to a user’s profile without needing separate authentication. A user simply grants the application the permission once, and voila! – activity within that app automatically becomes part of that user’s Facebook data.

The Washington Post Social Reader app is a great example of how these changes can be applied:

It’s a subtle change, but it really opens the door for more online activity to be tracked on a user’s profile. You probably get the gist of it, but if you want to learn more about these changes, read the articles here, here, and here.

While it’s far too early to gauge the true impact of the new Open Graph, it does signal an important shift. Previously, Facebook has been more focused on what users are doing recently: where Bob went for a run today, what artist Jane is listening to this afternoon, the photos from Rick’s camping trip last weekend. Events that happened weeks or months ago have generally tended to get lost.

However, the Facebook experience will now allow users to build more of a retrospective “scrapbook” of events that a user feels is important to his or her identity. By allowing activity from a site to recorded automatically, the user can easily look back and see, for example, all the artists he’s listened to on I Heart Radio over the past year.  In fact, one of the new features they’re rolling out along with the Open Graph is called Timeline. In essence, Facebook is extending the definition of identity to include what has happened over the entire course of a user’s life.

So what does this mean for causes? Let’s think for a second about one of the main reasons people support charity. Altruism? Perhaps. Guilt? Maybe. How about recognition? We probably don’t like to admit it, but most of us wouldn’t mind getting a little credit for supporting a good cause. Ever turn to the back of a non-profit’s annual report to see the individuals who’ve donated at different levels? Or seen the bricks on a new football stadium impressed with the names of top supporters? Recognition is a powerful way of reinforcing charitable support.

Now imagine that all your charitable support was automatically posted and stored on your Facebook profile. If you could look back and see how you’d supported causes over time, it would be a powerful way to gauge and demonstrate your dedication to philanthropy. Vanity aside, there could be some real value here: creating a sense of accomplishment, being able to track which causes have been important to you, seeing if you’ve met your giving goals – all of these are great reasons to track charitable support in a single location. Think Memolane for philanthropy. Such an experience hasn’t been built yet, but Facebook’s Open Graph certainly takes us closer in that direction.

What do you think? How else will Facebook’s recent moves change the way people interact with causes?

For another perspective, read Causes.com founder Joe Green’s take on the recent changes.

Mashable’s Social Good Summit – doing good isn’t just about charity

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I had the chance to attend Mashable’s Social Good Summit in NY this week. There were plenty of great speakers, including Beth Comstock (CMO of GE), Tony Bates (CEO of Skype), Lance Armstrong, Dr. Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace Prize winner and creator of “micro-credit”), and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (you need to read about him if you don’t know who he is). The full list is pretty amazing.

Rather than talk about specific speakers, I want to share my perspective on the event as a whole. Events like this demonstrate that social change isn’t relegated to the non-profit world. If you look at the full list of speakers, all who are playing a part in improving the world, you have representatives from multi-national corporations, entertainment, startups, religion, politics, sports, and media. Oh, and non-profits.

Today, social change is increasingly about coming up with creative ways to leverage technology, ideas, capital, and people. Whether that happens within a non-profit or not is almost beside the point. While you’re not likely hearing this idea from me for the first time, events like the Mashable Social Good Summit make this statement more boldly than I’ve seen anywhere else. And that’s a good thing.

Planing to go to next year’s event? Maybe I’ll see you there…

Now, here’s the obligatory poor-quality picture from my iPhone in the back seats:

Tony Bates of Skype demonstrating a video chat with a grade school in NJ.

How does choice affect donation behavior?

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How many times have you seen a donation box like the one below? Pretty standard, right? This is from United Way’s website. I’d like to question whether this is the best way to present a donation request.

The issue I have with this approach is that it turns the donation process into a complex decision. The logic flows like this: (a) ‘should I donate?,’ if yes, then (b) ‘is one of the preset options the right amount?’. If that answer is yes, then (c) ‘which option should I select’, or if no, (d) ‘how much should I give instead?’. So there are at least three points at which the donor is given the chance to exit the decision making process and avoid making a donation altogether. To me, that’s a less than optimal user experience.

Now, here’s something from the other extreme:

Granted, this is from Amazon, not a charity. But it provides the easiest possible way to complete a transaction – one click. This is literally the simplest user experience a site could offer.

I have to caveat this by saying that I haven’t seen “one-click” giving implemented anywhere. But what if it were? There would be no complexity: as long as the suggested donation was within a potential donor’s reach, all he would have to do is click a button. It’s a binary decision (yes/no) instead of a complex one. While this approach might put a cap on the amount of a single donation, might that be offset by driving a higher quantity of donations?

I don’t have the answer, since I don’t have any data to go on. But I’d really like to see someone experiment with “one-click giving”. Do you know anyone who has?