SOURCE: Change.org

November 19, 2007 10:52 ET

Change.org Launches Community of Branded Social Networks for Nonprofits

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - November 19, 2007) - Change.org, the leading platform for social change on the web, today announced the launch of a new community of branded social networks for nonprofits which aims to transform the way organizations fundraise and communicate with their supporters.

Change.org is launching its branded social networking service with over 50 leading organizations, including Amnesty International, CARE, Greenpeace, The Humane Society of the United States, and UNHCR. (See www.change.org/branded_networks for a complete list of partners.)

The new service enables any of the 1.5 million organizations on Change.org to create their own branded social network based on the look and feel of their website and complete with a set of customized tools to help nonprofits deepen their engagement with supporters, recruit new members, and spread viral fundraising and advocacy campaigns across the web.

"We think this is the first major step toward transforming the way organizations fundraise and communicate with their supporters," said Change.org founder and CEO, Ben Rattray. "Over the past 10 years, nonprofits have focused their online efforts on two things: email and their website. These have served their basic needs, but they're not significantly different or better than the direct mail and brochures that preceded them offline. Both approaches suffer from the same problems -- they are impersonal, inefficient, and fail to give supporters a way to fully participate in an organization or feel a part of its community. We're introducing a new model of engagement for the social sector by providing organizations with a way to personalize their communication, forge community among supporters, and empower donors to spread an organization's message to friends in a much more effective way than the organization could do itself."

Over the past year, a number of organizations have created profiles on the popular social networks MySpace and Facebook to gain exposure to a younger audience and test the waters of social networking. Rattray said that Change.org's new service isn't meant as a replacement for these networks, but rather to address the unique needs of organizations that require additional tools and a branded experience appropriate for a broader, older audience.

"We encourage organizations to use sites such as MySpace and Facebook, and we provide tools so individuals and organizations can raise money and awareness on both of these sites," said Rattray, referring to Change.org's Facebook Application, fundraising widgets, and forthcoming OpenSocial Application built on Google's recently announced platform.

"But these general-purpose networks have two limitations. First, they lack many of the features that organizations need -- such as the ability to post specific fundraising campaigns, update donors on the progress of projects they've funded, run online advocacy campaigns, and capture important data about supporters. Second, as popular as they are, most donors are not members of either service. Anecdotally, we're hearing that about 5-15% of most organizations' supporters are on MySpace or Facebook. So organizations that focus exclusively one MySpace and Facebook are failing to fully engage 85% of their existing supporters -- comprising the people most likely to give and raise additional money."

In response to the limitations of MySpace and Facebook, many organizations have considered building their own separate social networks. But Rattray cautions that independent networks for nonprofit organizations will be difficult to maintain.

"It's extremely difficult to build and sustain a vibrant community around a single organization. What we're offering nonprofits is something that hits the sweet spot between using general-purpose communities such as MySpace and Facebook that don't entirely satisfy an organization's needs and having to set up their own independent network. Specifically, we're offering nonprofits all the branding, fundraising and engagement tools they might want along with the ability to plug into a broader network of tens of thousands of organizations and activists working for social change."

Change.org is a social entrepreneurship venture founded by two former classmates from Stanford, Ben Rattray and Mark Dimas. In addition to its community of nonprofit social networks, Change.org enables users to create virtual organizations around issues such as global warming, poverty, and homelessness and to collaborate with likeminded people around the world by setting up social fundraising communities and starting online advocacy campaigns. The company is located in San Francisco, CA and publicly launched its initial service in May 2007. For press inquiries please email press@change.org.

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