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Facebook dabbles in crowdsourcing for nonprofits (+video)

The world's most popular social network website is introducing new features that it hopes will allow charities to more easily spread awareness and raise money.

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    Visitors to Facebook look at a plane with a 3,000-square-foot banner flying high above Facebook headquarters to launch Mobli's "My Last Instagram" contest in Menlo Park, Calif., on Wednesday, March 27, 2013.
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Facebook is upping its game for charity with new fundraising tools available to nonprofit organizations.

Two months ago, the social-media giant created a Social Good Team to specialize in accommodating people and organizations dedicated to humanitarian causes.

Now, the latest products for social good have been unveiled – a fundraising feature and an expanded ‘Donate’ button.

The new fundraising capabilities allow organizations on Facebook to launch virtual campaigns and raise money directly on the site.

“You’ll be able to get the word out, rally supporters and collect donations directly on Facebook,” the company said on its donations information website. “Plus, you can show progress toward your goals for things like year-end drives, disaster relief, and themed campaigns.”

So far, 37 organizations have partnered with Facebook, and at least three pages, as of Wednesday, are currently using them: Mercy Corps, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and World Wildlife Fund.

Much like the “create an event” feature available to all users, the new fundraising pages enable nonprofits to invite their followers and initiate conversation. The group can add photos, videos, and updates to the fundraising page, which will include a progress bar showing the amount of money raised since the campaign began.

Users will be able to donate directly on the page and can share it with their Facebook friends. Every shared fundraiser post will have an automatic “Donate” button, making a donation all the more convenient for first-time supporters.

Facebook’s vice president of product management Naomi Gleit told TechCrunch that the goal is to promote more spontaneous giving to these nonprofits. By making the transaction as convenient as possible, people will be hopefully more likely to contribute.

The “Donate” button and capability has been in place since 2013, but not to such a proliferated degree. Before, it was distributed periodically on the top of users’ newsfeeds during times of global crises, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014 and April's Nepal earthquakes. It’s proven to be effective – users raised more than $15 million for the latter cause.

According to a report compiled by the National Philanthropic Trust, online charity donations have been on the rise. In 2013, giving via the Internet grew by 13.5 percent, while overall charitable giving grew by 4.9 percent. Out of America’s top 100 charities, 25 raised more than $10 million each in 2013 via online donations.

Currently, Facebook does not charge its partners for the the new tools, but will eventually institute a fee that it says will cover operating costs. Crowdsourcing websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo keep a portion of the proceeds, but are not specifically used for charity purposes.

Facebook says that the goal is to break even without making profit.

Last week, the company rolled out a “Safety Check” feature in the wake of the Paris bombings and more recently, the Nigeria attacks. It allowed users in the region to notify their friends that they were safe and accounted for. The website now also issues Amber Alerts, specifically targeting people in applicable regions.

“With more than 150 million people around the world connected to a cause, Facebook is a global community of volunteers, donors, and activists coming together to make the world a better place,” Ms. Gleit wrote in an announcement Wednesday.

“We know we can do more to enable these connections.”

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