Testing consumers’ threshold for good works, Causes.com is expected to launch its Supporter Network on Tuesday. Co-founded by Sean Parker as one of the first ten Facebook applications, Causes has grown as a purpose-driven network designed to connect socially responsible brands, nonprofit organizations and celebrities, and consumers.
Matt Mahan, president and CEO of Causes, says the company can’t sign brand partners fast enough. “They’re sick of impersonal display advertising that doesn’t connect with consumers,” he said. With the new network, “a brand’s sponsored campaign ... is recommended to the people who have expressed interest in supporting causes related to the brand’s philanthropic efforts.”
Supporter Network launch partners include a long list of causes, including the World Wildlife Fund, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Greenpeace, and brand partners including Toyota, Budweiser, and Kashi.
Among the network’s more notable partnerships, Mahan cited Toyota’s pledge campaign to “Make child passenger safety a priority,” which is expected to surface brand supporters, as well as users who support child welfare. In addition, celebrity launch partners include Ricky Martin, Kristin Chenoweth, Gary Sinise, and former U.S Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
Since launching in 2007, Causes claims to have helped 186 million people in 156 countries connect with various cause. All told, Causes members have raised more than $48 million for nonprofits, collected 34 million signatures for grassroots campaigns, and organized thousands of awareness campaigns.
Having dormed with Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard, Mahan is happy to credit Facebook for helping to scale Causes. At this stage, however, Mahan said the company is ready to exist more independently.
“We’ve built new campaigning tools that lay the foundation for community, conversation and collaboration for the millions upon millions of people who are passionate about a cause,” Mahan said. “As we grow the Supporter Network, and learn more about people’s causes, we will be better positioned to bring on additional corporate partners and help them find the most engaged supporters for their philanthropic work.”
As Causes grows, Mahan also appears to be more willing to compare the company to Jumo -- the ill-fated, cause-driven social network founded by another Zuckerberg roommate, Chris Hughes. “Jumo faced a very difficult task in trying to build an ecosystem from scratch,” Mahan explained. “We’re starting with a large active user base.” Added Mahan: “We’ve also learned that it is important to give people compelling ways to have a direct impact for their cause.”
As such, Causes has added an “Impact Partnerships” team, the sole purpose of which is to help nonprofits and grassroots organizers run more meaningful campaigns. Along with Sean Parker, investors include Founders Fund, the Case Foundation and NEA.