Berkeley-Based Online Activism Tool 'Causes' Plans Expansion

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After raising tens of millions in financing since 2007, Berkeley-based Causes - the company behind the Facebook application and online activism tool of the same name and an important figure in the local nonprofit community - will soon relocate to San Francisco as it seeks to broaden its scope.

Since its founding three years ago, Causes has grown immensely, raising over $16 million, according to major media outlets. Over 100 million people now use the application, said Joe Green, Causes co-founder and president, and about $27 million has been donated to various organizations through the application, according to the company's website.

Founded by Green - a former grassroots organizer and college roommate of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg - and Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster and former Facebook president, Causes combines philanthropy with the efficiency of social networking.

Although the company currently consists of a team of 16 employees, Green said in many ways Causes - the 45th most trafficked site in the U.S., he said - is no longer a small business.

The company will expand further with the release of its own website and the premier of a Causes in-store charity gift card, Causes Office Manager Sydney Fleischer said in an e-mail.

By giving nonprofits access to such a large online community, Fleischer said, Causes is bringing these businesses into the age of social media by allowing them to interact with their supporters and create custom fundraising projects that demonstrate to people what they can help accomplish.

"For us, to be able to raise $4,000 like that virtually is great," said Yalda Modabber, executive director of Berkeley-based nonprofit Golestan Center for Language Immersion and Cultural Education. "We've received donations from over 300 people on Facebook, and those aren't the same people donating to us offline."

Causes contributes to Berkeley's local community by hosting events for area nonprofits and advising them on how to use social media to raise money. The company sublets offices in its building "quite cheaply" to local nonprofits as well, Green said.

The company also has a presence on the UC Berkeley campus, where team members have spoken in classes, Fleischer said in the e-mail, adding that an alumnus working for the company is planning a hack-a-thon for students. Three members of the Causes team, including Chief Technologist Jimmy Kittiyachavalit and engineer Jay Adkisson, are campus alumni.

Green attributes Causes' success to its large, centralized audience built around charity and activism.

"How do you build movements of people? It happens through peoples' friends," he said. "What gets them to actually show up is that their friends are going to be there."


Contact Nina Brown at [email protected]

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