The site lets you swap banal birthday pleasantries for charity cash
She’s one year wiser — and her nonprofit of choice is at least $5,100 richer.
Diana Saez, ahead of her 39th birthday last Friday, wanted to help rehabilitate the Hurricane Maria-ravaged U.S. territory where she was born. So days earlier, the Minneapolis-based ad agency worker opted to “donate” her birthday using Facebook’s recently added fundraising feature: “All I want for my birthday is for Puerto Rico to see some love/$,” she titled the campaign for the Foundation for Puerto Rico, a San Juan-based nonprofit.
Within a day, Saez told Moneyish, she’d racked up $1,000. “I was like, ‘Oh, OK — let’s do $3,900 for my birthday, because I’ll be 39.’” Over less than a week, she had raised $5,137. “Apparently now I’m like 52.”
“I don’t think that I would’ve raised that amount of money that conveniently, that easily, through any other method that I know of,” Saez said.
Facebook rolled out its birthday crowdfunding feature to U.S. users in mid-August: Two weeks before your birthday, a news feed message offers the option to launch a birthday fundraiser benefiting any of 750,000 U.S. nonprofits. Friends get a notification the day of asking them to donate.
Disaster-stricken Puerto Rico residents also got a hand from Williamsburg artist Ben Copperwheat, a newly minted 42-year-old who felt a personal connection through Puerto Rican neighbors, friends and visits to the island. Alok Gupta, 37, of Atlanta, raised funds for Enduring Hearts, a kids’ heart transplant research nonprofit. “I don’t need friends to go out and buy me another drink or buy me dinner,” he told Moneyish. “I think taking that money and putting it to a good cause would be a lot more valuable.”
Donations through Facebook Payments get slapped with a 5% fee; those through the platform Network for Good come with a 5.75% fee. (A Facebook spokesperson explained to Moneyish that “the 5% goes towards the vetting, security, fraud protection, operational costs and payment support that makes it possible to make it safe and easy for people to create fundraisers,” but declined to provide specific numbers on users donating their birthdays or the cash value of donations.)
For context, GoFundMe deducts 5% for itself and 2.9% for payment processing, plus 30 cents per donation. Crowdrise’s starter plan for nonprofits comes with a 6% transaction fee, but allows donors to cover all fees at checkout. YouCaring’s third-party processors deduct a 2.9% credit card processing fee plus 30 cents per transaction.
Some users, balking at Facebook’s fees, simply link to their charity of choice. Atlanta resident Jake, who turned 31 on Sept. 11 and asked to be identified by only his first name, urged friends to give directly to the Houston Humane Society. Facebook is “using tragedy to solicit profits for themselves,” Jake told Moneyish in a Facebook message. “I’m not sure how much money I raised, but I’m sure it was more than using the Facebook app, seeing as how annoyed other people were, they donated in protest.”
Even people using the Facebook tool were wary of the fees. “It’s not like I think they’re in it for the best reasons, and I do definitely have my doubts and concerns,” Saez said. “But I felt like the need to give and to encourage people to give was more important.”
Gupta says Facebook should charge a nominal fee between 1.5% and 2%. “I wish they were a little more up front about it,” he said. “But at the end of the day, they are helping bring attention towards good causes.”
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