If you're hoping to raise money for a good cause, but it isn't tied to a specific organization, Facebook just changed the game.
The social media giant has expanded its fundraisers tool, now letting users create personal fundraiser pages to raise money for themselves, friends, and people or things not on Facebook. Previously, users could only raise money for a registered nonprofit on the platform.
But to stick to social good, the new personal fundraisers can only span six categories: education (like tuition and books), medical (like procedures and treatments), pet medical, crisis relief (like natural disasters), personal emergency (like house fires or theft), and funeral and loss. As the product rolls out, however, Facebook hopes to include more categories and evolve them over time.
"We want to be able to support people fundraising for personal causes," said Naomi Gleit, Facebook's VP of Social Good. "We've researched and surveyed people who have used our platform in the past, and our users have told us that they want this."
According to Gleit, 56 percent of users who have already fundraised for nonprofits on Facebook said they also wanted to donate to friends and family.
"Clearly there's a need for both, and this is something we want to provide," she said.
The product will roll out slowly over the next few weeks to U.S. users who are at least 18 years old. Once it's live for you, you'll be able to select the menu at the top of your News Feed and tap the "Fundraisers" button, which will bring you to the fundraiser hub. The "Discover" section lets you find out about new and popular fundraisers, while the "Manage" tab lets you keep track of fundraisers friends have invited you to in the past.
"These are not specific nonprofits, but they are important, critical financial needs."
To create a fundraiser, the first question you're asked is, "Who are you raising money for?" You can choose a friend on Facebook, a nonprofit, yourself, or "someone or something not on Facebook" (like a pet or a young child), incorporating all the tool's functionalities into a single flow. Once you choose who you're raising money for, you select one of the six categories and fill out a short description.
Right now, all personal fundraisers need to be submitted first for a 24-hour review process, in which Facebook ensures all fundraisers meet its policies and community standards. This process has some automation but is led by actual staff.
"We are starting somewhat conservatively. We do want to ensure the fundraisers are high-quality, meet the categories, meet the fundraiser policies and are legitimate," Gleit said.
Facebook's own research and surveys showed that users actually appreciated this extra step, ensuring that everything in personal fundraisers are for a good cause.
Once a fundraiser is approved, users can display a cover photo, a "beneficiary card" showing the person receiving money, a "thermometer" that fills up according to how much money is raised in real-time, the story behind the fundraiser, and information about the creator. Since everything's on Facebook, visitors to the page can click on the profiles of the creator and the person receiving donations, to learn more about them and feel secure in the fundraiser's credibility.
Examples of personal fundraisers include parents raising money for their premature baby's medical bills while he's in the NICU, and someone fundraising for books for a kindergarten class.
"These are not specific nonprofits, but they are important, critical financial needs, and we want support fundraising for that," Gleit said.
To donate, users can pay through Facebook's existing payment platform infrastructure. Facebook doesn't want to make money off the tool, but it does charge a 6.9 percent fee, plus a standard 30-cent transaction fee, to cover payment processing, vetting, and security.
To figure out the best way to design personal fundraisers and have them function, Facebook spoke to dozens of people who have either created fundraisers, been the beneficiary of fundraisers, or donated to them to hear their stories.
"We take an iterative approach to designing."
"We take an iterative approach to designing, which basically starts from a position of ignorance," said Nick Inzucchi, product designer at Facebook. "Assuming we don't know the right answer, and going out and talking to people, listening to them to hear their needs, and evolving the product from that point."
Inzucchi and his team learned that a powerful personal narrative is at the center of each fundraiser, highlighting the real people involved.
"That's kind of the hook that initially captures people, and makes them want to give. It's also the seed that makes somebody want to create a fundraiser in the first place," Inzucchi said.
Other important factors included trust — making sure money is actually going to credible causes and making a a real impact — and the community that gathers around a specific cause.
Using this knowledge, the design team came up with prototypes and concepts to share with people and see what's resonating, and then refined them over time.
While the tool definitely seems to be a competitor to crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe, Indiegogo, and Kickstarter, Gleit said fundraisers should act as a complementary tool, creating a way for more people to give more money..
"We're not trying to build Kickstarter," Gleit said. "If you're trying to start a startup or film a movie, this is really focused on personal, critical financial needs ... We think giving is growing, so we really feel we're growing the pie here."
"We think giving is growing, so we really feel we're growing the pie here."
Personal fundraisers are the latest product from the Facebook Social Good team, which Gleit officially announced in September 2015 at Mashable's Social Good Summit. The team focuses on products in two areas — crisis response, like Safety Check and Community Response, and charitable giving, like fundraisers and Donate buttons.
In addition to personal fundraisers, the company also announced Thursday that verified pages can add a Donate button to Facebook Lives to increase giving. Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and other celebrities will be participating in a Facebook "Live-A-Thon" to support the ACLU on Friday.
In 2016, Facebook fundraisers raised $6.79 million for more than 750,000 nonprofits. The team hopes today's announcements can further the company's mission to help people mobilize around issues they care about.
"I'm really excited about this, and I think the whole team is," Gleit said. "We offer the reach — you want to fundraise from your friends, and they're all on Facebook. Everything is in one place ... We hope we'll make this easier and help raise even more money."