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Area start-ups connect donors and charities

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By Steven Overly
Monday, December 6, 2010

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes revealed last week the beta version of a new social network that's been in development for a year. Called Jumo, the Web site connects people based on their passions to social projects and charities.

A plethora of start-ups in the Washington area also operates at the nexus of social media and social good. Citizen Effect, for example, aims to connect regular people with global development projects, such as child care centers in Africa or food safety initiatives in India. The group got its start in early 2008 under the name 1 Well. TomorrowVentures, the investment firm of Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, pumped some money into the start-up and its name changed.

"The concept has always been the same," said chief executive and founder Dan Morrison. "The whole ideal is you don't have to be Bill Gates to go out and be a philanthropist and help the world."

Nonprofit organizations upload development projects to CitizenEffect.org and users select one that speaks to them. Users can set up a Web page where others can donate, then tap into social networks via Facebook, Twitter and a blog. Some also organize events.

"We saw the potential for organizations not to just become social media savvy, but to give their donors the tools to become social media savvy for them," Morrison said.

Casey Golden created McLean-based Small Act to provide nonprofits with software to manage the growing number of channels where they communicate with volunteers and donors, tracking which are most productive. He piloted the offering in November 2009 with six local organizations, including Miriam's Kitchen and the Children's National Medical Center.

"The idea was they have to spend time building relationships, not building networks," said Golden, adding the company now has 160 clients. "The audience is already existing."

At myImpact.org, the founders are less concerned with donations.

Chris Golden (no relation to Casey) and Nick Troiano created a Web platform that uses Twitter to tally the amount of volunteer work done on behalf of organizations. Hours served. Trees planted. And coming soon, pints of blood drawn.

The idea is two-fold, Chris Golden said. It can drive a competitive spirit to see who can serve the most. That's attracted the interest of some colleges, including his alma mater, American University. It also reassures volunteers that even small amounts of time, when added up, amount to something bigger.

"We're making it easier for the audience that we're trying to reach to use the data that were collecting . . . in a way that cannot just be compelling to them but actually drive change," Golden said.


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