Causes: The Leading Way to Change the World Online

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By Nick O'Neill Comment

-Causes Logo-For the past few years there has been a movement of entrepreneurs trying to leverage the power of the web to spread good throughout the world, Causes is the only application to experience massive success. One of the biggest challenges facing the movement is that most services until recently were unable to grow beyond a certain level. Change.org, Idealist, Zaadz (later converted to Gaia.com), Razoo, and countless others have struggle to get beyond a certain level.

Recently there has been a continued drive toward finding the right solution online. Causecast.org and numerous other sites are all taking a shot at changing the world through social networks but Causes is the only one that has experienced massive growth and has grown to levels previously unreached by sites looking to do good.

Conspiracy Theories and Controversy

If you’ve been following the impact of the new design on Facebook and the rapid growth of Causes to be come the leading application, you’d probably also know about the controversy surrounding the application. Causes and iLike have been the only applications selected to be part of Facebook’s “Great Apps” program which grants both applications access to additional viral channels and an increased number of daily invites for users.

The result was massive growth (as pictured below). On September 16, the application had just over 3 million monthly active users but within just two months, the application ballooned to over 18.2 million active users and the growth doesn’t appear to be slowing. If you are looking for conspiracy theories, Causes would be a great place to search.

Sean Parker, co-founder of Causes as well as numerous other infamous startups (Napster, Plaxo, etc) has had a historically tight relationship with Mark Zuckerberg. He even served as President of the company until he supposedly got in trouble for a drug incident. Whatever took place, there is clearly a benefit to having friends in high places.

Causes is honestly working to do good though regardless of how they got to be so successful. When I spoke with Sean Parker at f8 earlier this year, he emphasized the company’s commitment to finding the best way to incentivize users to contribute to Causes for good. Even if you are into conspiracy theories, there is no doubt that doing good is a naturally viral activity and Parker’s tight relationship with Facebook is not the only reason for their success.

-Causes Growth Chart-

Doing Good Online is Still Unsolved

Even for Causes, generating money or action for causes is a substantial challenge. The top cause on the application, “Support The O Campaign for Cancer Prevention”, has almost 4 million members but has raised just over $75,000. While $75k is nothing to sneeze at, one would imagine that raising millions of dollars with millions of active users shouldn’t be so hard.

Other sites like Kiva.org have developed creative models for generating money for causes but it’s still extremely difficult despite the countless attempts at generating more money. Perhaps raising money shouldn’t be the only goal, perhaps inspiring others into action is a better model. The only problem with that is there is no accountability.

What creative solutions have you seen for doing good online? What are the most successful ones you’ve seen?

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