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Facebook's new fundraiser tool makes it easier for nonprofits to raise money

Facebook

Facebook is keen to associate its platform with good causes and is launching a new, experimental fundraiser tool for charities today. Nonprofits will be able to launch specific fundraisers on their Pages, showing users how many people have contributed, how much money they want to raise, and suggesting possible donations. The social network is also improving its Donate button, making it available in individual posts as well as Pages. Users will be able to contribute money directly from the News Feed, with a single-page form used to process payments via PayPal, credit, or debit card.

"for year-end drives, themed campaigns, and special projects."

"People will be able to donate in just a few taps and share their donations with friends," said Facebook in a press release. "All shared posts will also include a Donate button, making it easy for anyone who sees it to donate." The company suggests that charities can use the fundraiser tool to "rally supporters, collect donations, and visibly track progress toward a goal for year-end drives, themed campaigns, and special projects."

Fundraisers can be donated to directly from the News Feed.

Three charities have launched fundraisers with the new tool today (Mercy Corps, the National MS Society, and the World Wildlife Fund), and Facebook says it's partnering with 37 organizations in total for this first, experimental phase. (Registered nonprofits interested in trying the tools in the future can sign up via the company's new donations microsite.) A source familiar with the matter told The Verge that Facebook aims to offer these features outside the US next year, and noted that although the social network is not charging beta partners to test these tools, it will introduce fees for fundraisers in future — though only to cover its own costs.

some of facebook's humanitarian initiatives have been criticized

For Facebook, the desire to enable charitable causes seems genuine and deep-seated. The company first introduced the Donate button in late 2013, and rolled out improvements this August to allow donations via ads and Pages. However, as an incredibly powerful, multinational company, even Facebook's charitable actions deserve scrutiny. When the Donate button first launched, for example, some critics pointed out that it was also a handy way for the social network to collect credit card information for any future push into e-commerce. Similarly, the company has been criticized recently for deploying its Safety Check feature after the Paris attacks, but not for related acts of terrorism in Beirut and Baghdad.

The new fundraising and donation features look more straightforwardly good by comparison, but it'll be interesting to see how they are used in the future, and, more importantly, by whom. As John Oliver pointed out back in August during his show on phony religious pastors, not all of the organizations registered in the US as 501(c)3s — that is, tax-exempt non-profits — are particularly charitable. As ever, these systems are neutral, and depend on the people who use them to do good.