Experience Project Launches BroadCause, Putting Social Media to Work for Charitable Causes—and the Corporations Backing Them

4/5/11Follow @wroush

Can a company truly do well by doing good? That’s what San Francisco’s Experience Project hopes to find out with the official launch today of BroadCause. The site offers nonprofit groups free software tools to help with fundraising and administration, and makes money by selling marketing opportunities to corporations looking to promote awareness of their charity work.

BroadCause has been online in beta form for a few months now, and includes pages for more than 1,800 non-profits where supporters can broadcast comments to their Facebook friends or Twitter followers. If non-profits register and claim ownership of their pages, they get access to software that handles payment processing for donations, contact management and e-mail marketing, event promotion and ticketing, and support for fundraising events such as auctions.

At the same time, brands like American Express, Nestle, Paramount Pictures, and Sony are using BroadCause as a platform for their own initiatives. AmEx, for example, used the site to generate buzz on Twitter for its Members Project, which matches American Express card members with volunteer opportunities. The company’s BroadCause page promoted its pledge to donate $1 to DonorsChoose.org, an education charity, for every retweet of its volunteering message.

Such messages have a built-in audience at BroadCause thanks to ties to ExperienceProject.com, a 5-million-member community site focused on group discussion of life issues such as health and parenting. That site was itself born around a cause—the very first discussion group on the site back in 2005 was an online support group for patients with multiple sclerosis—and many of its members “have an incredible need to be part of some form of fundraising,” says Peter Jackson, CEO of Experience Project (who is no relation to The Lord of the Rings filmmaker).

Another case in point: When the Lifetime TV show “Army Wives” wanted to raise money for Blue Star Families, an organization of military spouses, Experience Project promoted the campaign on the pages of Experience Project groups like “I Am An Army Wife.” “We have the largest collection of military spouses online, and they raised $10,000 in the first hour,” says Jackson.

The “sweet spot” for BroadCause, according to Experience Project founder and “chief experience officer” Armen Berjikly, is “that area where a brand cares about its audience and its products deeply and is willing to give back, and wants to make awareness rise about that.” This awareness, he says, often comes back to benefit the companies’ bottom line—which is, of course, part of the point. “We see same-store sales, intent to try, intent to buy, all of those metrics go up positively when we start to promote a brand’s philanthropic efforts, which are often aligned closely with the products they sell,” Berjikly says.

BroadCause is an outgrowth of Twitcause, a service the Experience Project launched in 2009. At first, the company simply used the Twitcause account on Twitter to … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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