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Jumo's Goal: Advancing Online Do-Gooding Beyond the "Big Red Donate Button"

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, November 30 2010

A look inside Jumo HQ; photo credit: Jumo.

Chris Hughes knows about connecting people. A Facebook co-founder, Hughes also led the Obama campaign's MyBarackObama social networking platform. Now Hughes' ambition is to take what he's learned about online organizing and apply it to the task of getting people engaged in charitable works, from HIV/AIDS to clean water infrastructure efforts. The project is called Jumo, and it launched today, reports the New York Times' Jenna Wortham:

The site, which is being unveiled on Tuesday, aims to “do what Yelp did for restaurants,” Mr. Hughes said, indexing charities “to help people find and evaluate them.”

Individual charities, projects like building a school in rural Africa and broad issues like gay rights will all have dedicated pages on Jumo.

Relevant news articles, Twitter posts and YouTube videos will be added to the pages, and users can add their own feedback and comments. Users can also find their Facebook friends and follow their adopted projects and issues on the site.

The idea is to take the principles that helped Mr. Hughes organize a network of volunteers into a successful political force and apply them to a much broader universe of causes and issues.

The question underlying is this: Is there more that the web can do for philanthropic work than just simply making it cheaper and faster to tap into people's wallets? Another project that grew out of the Facebook mileau, Facebook Causes, has also aimed at figuring that out. They've had successes, like a $9 million found of venture capital funding wrapped in October. But Causes been criticized by some for focusing too much on pure fundraising, and not enough on the hard work of cultivating relationships between organizations and their supporter bases that go beyond mere financial transaction. Jumo aims to be different. "Unlike other groups in the space," reads a note on the site's blog, "we’re not interested in the big red donate button."

Whether or not Jumo has solved some of that problem is something we'll have to wait and see about -- at the very least because key parts of the site are down at the moment.

(Like Brian Reich, I signed up for Jumo's email list, but had to hear about the launch from the New York Times.)