Two Weeks With Jumo: My First Impressions Of The Social Network For Social Change

Since its launch on November 30th, I’ve spent some time playing around with Jumo (it is definitely worth reading the about page) and reading other people’s accounts of their explorations of the new social network for social causes founded by Facebook cofounder and Obama 2008 Online Organizing Directory Chris Hughes.

At least in the nonprofit technology sector (perhaps echochamber) the accounts all seem to be pretty similar: What’s the point? Do organizations need another profile on another site to maintain? Will Jumo do any better at motivating people to take real action rather than virtual action? (Malcolm Gladwell’s  “Small Change” article seems rather relevant here.)

I waited to blog about Jumo because I was hoping something would “happen” that would make Jumo’s raison d’etre obvious. But in the first few weeks nothing has emerged.  And every time I visit the site, I find myself wondering what I should do there. Sure, I can read dispatches from organizations I have chosen to follow, see suggestions of organizations I might be interested in, but neither solves a problem I actually had.

Each day I get perhaps dozens of emails from organizations, some I have strong relationships with (I’ve donated many times), others weak (I signed a petition or some other online action). Just about whenever I log on to Twitter, or Facebook I see a link to another organization or campaign that someone in my network thinks I (or people that follow them) might be interested in.  The problem I have is definitely not one of finding out about organizations, or what they are doing. I would presume that most people who are inclined to donate to charities are in the same boat as me — they don’t wake up wondering where they should give their money to today (or if that is a worry they have, they are probably not going to use Jumo to find and donate money).

Jumo is entering a space that already includes organization’s own email lists and online action centers, Facebook (Causes), Twitter,, (which just relaunched with some new features and new UI), (which is in a year end fundraising push where every donation up to a total of $25k is matched,) and VolunteerMatch.  Granted, all of these have their own feature sets and quirks, but there is enough overlap to make you wonder how Jumo is going to be different and more effective in connecting people with nonprofit organizations.

One commenter on an email list I subscribe to said of Jumo, “Its a solution looking for a problem.”  This strikes a cord with me too. 

I can’t help but wonder what real good could have been done if Hughes, instead of trying to make his stamp on the nonprofit social networking segment had instead leveraged his connections and fundraising acumen to raise money directly for worthy causes? Or to create a resource center or training program for nonprofit organizations on how to use existing tools.  Or perhaps to partner with one of the sites I mentioned above to improve their feature set, or UI — perhaps build better integration with Facebook.

Maybe Hughes himself could have convinced Mark Zuckerberg to improve the UI and tools available to organizations already on Facebook.  Or since Facebook is trawling for data in your social graph to advertise to you, and recommend people you may know, why not recommend organizations that jive with users’ interests?  Jumo is essentially an enhancement to Facebook since it requires users to have a Facebook account, the separation between the two feels artificial at best, and requires users to “go” to a new site, away from where all their friends are: on Facebook. Seems like there is a tremendous opportunity to meet people where they are (Facebook) rather than planting a new garden next door, with low walls.

The biggest shocker about Jumo is that when you make a contribution through it 15% of your donation goes to Jumo and 5% to Network For Good.  So with Jumo only $16 of every $20 you donate goes to the actual organization your are donating to.  What exactly is the value that Jumo is offering in exchange for 20% off the top of each donation?  Especially if the first thing most new users to Jumo probably do is find and follow organizations they already support. If they decide to give through Jumo, rather than directly as they might have in the past, Jumo is siphoning off donations from the very organizations it aims to help.

In the coming weeks and months I will continue to keep and eye on Jumo, check in there and see what is going on, but as of now, I would caution any organization to spent too much time and effort on Jumo, especially if it comes at the expensive of maintaining their presence elsewhere.

Here is a list of some of the blog posts and articles I’ve read about Jumo since its launch:

  • Beverley Pomeroy
  • Allyson Kapin over at Frogloop
  • Steve MacLaughlin
  • Amy Sample Ward
  • And a roundup post over at Nonprofit Commons


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