An early look at nonprofit social networking site Jumo

Many technologically savvy nonprofits and nonprofit social media marketers have been anticipating the launch of Jumo, a social networking site for nonprofits and causes. Yesterday, the Beta version officially launched.

The project was started by Chris Hughes, one of the Facebook founders and the chief digital organizer for Obama’s presidential campaign. This fact, and the $3.5 million in money raised for the start up, helped garner some significant buzz. But it also set expectations tremendously high.

I tried to log on yesterday morning, but got many “page-not-found” errors. It was a bit better by night time. The site doesn’t seem solid quite yet. Although it is in Beta, it sure is not a very good first impression (remember, Gmail only came out of Beta in 2009!).

Via the Huffington Post, Chris Hughes spoke about Jumo:

Most every site that’s out there focuses on donations. And, don’t get me wrong, donating to organizations, especially right now, is really important. But Jumo is taking a very different approach. It’s not just about how much money are donating to this or that group. It’s about what kind of relationship you are building with that organization…

When I finally got to snoop around a bit, I didn’t find it immediately exciting. Although the site claims to be a place where nonprofits can engage, it seems to follow a fairly strict template. I didn’t immediately see much room for creativity and out-of-the-box campaigning.

There seem to be two key elements on an organization’s profile, with most emphasis on “Top News.” The only way to engage with this news is to “like” it (similar to Facebook). You cannot comment underneath these news items. The place to comment sits next to these news items in a place called “Talk,” but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to support any kind of threaded conversation.

In other words, these elements seem much more focused on the traditional broadcasting rather than relationship building. Of course, over the years Facebook implemented changes to their design and functionality to make it more social and keep people on the site longer, and I hope this might happen to Jumo as well. As of yet, I don’t quite see beyond the fact that Jumo seems to be adding to the noise, rather than setting it apart.

Screenshot of a nonprofit profile page on Jumo

And despite Hughes’ comments, donations will be very important to nonprofits. As the former chief digital organizer for Obama, Hughes should know that. Not all organizations display a donate button. When I found some that did, the donation process seemed very simple. And simple is good.

A one-page form is clearly laid out with some predetermined monetary suggestions or a blank box to fill out your own amount and with a credit card payment option (Visa, Mastercard, and American Express). Unfortunately, there are no Paypal or other payment options. I know Europeans don’t have credit cards in masses as is the case in the United States, so this might limit international donations.

But the biggest worry in the donation form is the standard “optional 15% donation” that is included in your amount. In other words, you have to opt-out if you do not want it. Best practices dictate you should never have to opt-out. I realize Jumo needs to be viable and sustainable, but “tipping” the company should really be an opt-in scenario. This is also in addition to the 4.75% the Network for Good takes for processing the donation. There’s nothing wrong with a processing fee, but this is a combined 20% cut of the donation, albeit optional. That’s hefty.

Donation options for Jumo

Seeing the high expectations, it sure doesn’t seem off to a very good start, but I’d be willing to cut it some slack over the next few months to see how it pans out. You would think that the forces behind it seem capable of pulling it off after all.

What do others think? Beth Kanter hosts an interesting guest post by Steve MacLaughlin, Director of Internet Solutions at Blackbaud, on the launch. Amy Sample Ward has some first reflections, and I find the comments underneath her post very informative too.

What about arts organizations?

Of course I’m mostly interested to see how arts organizations are using the site. As soon as I started searching for classical music organizations last night, I started receiving 500 Errors and it doesn’t seem any better this morning. But before it completely shut down on me, I did manage to see some organizations in the search function, although I did not get to see their actual profiles. Classical music organizations on Jumo include:

Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, Ravinia Festival Association, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Chicago Opera Theater, The Metropolitan Opera, Pocket Opera, Miami Lyric Opera.

I will monitor Jumo over the next few months and see how these organizations are using the site. Will classical music fans follow these organizations to Jumo? The few arts organizations I did manage to see had very few followers compared to some of the social justice and environmental issues organizations. There were also many more of the latter organizations already present on Jumo. Does this mean Jumo is more suited for social activism, rather than the performing arts? Or does this simply mean those organizations adopt these new technologies earlier?

There are many more questions than answers at this stage and unfortunately, Jumo currently makes it hard, if not impossible, to try to answer the questions due to its spotty performance. Underwhelming seems to be the word going around right now and that’s unfortunate for Jumo. Let’s hope they can soon get their act together and really put that $3.5 million to work.