Wine, cake, and cause. Happy Birthday.

Oh, Facebook. You’ve done it again.  $300 million dollars in “hey, it’s my birthday” contributions raised for more than 750,000 organizations since the launch of birthday fundraisers last year. That’s pretty awesome.

But, from an organizational standpoint, if there ever was a “transactional” fundraising experience, this is it.  Except in rare instances, organizations have no way of knowing who’s making those birthday contributions, so we can’t follow up, can’t really say thanks, and can’t work on growing any kind of a real relationships with those birthday donors. And I realize that’s not really the point and I’m not saying this isn’t an intriguing exercise in grassroots philanthropy. But it kind of make me crazy, from an organization standpoint, that is.

Still, they are interesting, aren’t they? And when one of our organization’s friends names us in a birthday fundraiser, we’re pleased, and rightfully so. They provide a bit of validation for us and even more so for the individual whose friends actually pony up for them.

Throwing a birthday fundraiser lets people know what you’re passionate about; it sheds sparkly birthday candle light on something that matters to you and may surprise people. Some of the most successful of the birthday efforts stem from people who choose really unexpected causes to raise money for and make their friends go, “What?”. It’s a great opportunity to reveal a bit of your self that others may not regularly see. Good stuff.

I’d like to suggest a further step. Or an instead step. And a step that we might take ourselves and suggest to our supporters when they ask how they can help us.

What about this? How about a birthday party you throw for yourself with the purpose of introducing your friends to a nonprofit that means a lot to you? Invest a little more than just pushing two Facebook buttons – buy some good wine, some great smelly cheese and crackers, a meatball or two. And a birthday cake, of course.  Gather people around this auspicious event – hey, you’re having another birthday! — and celebrate more than just another trip around the sun. Celebrate a problem-solving, solution-finding, innovative organization that is changing the DNA of your community or of the world.

If you want to do a Facebook birthday fundraiser or encourage folks to do it for your organization, have at it. But don’t let yourself off that easily if you seriously want to advocate for a cause you really care about.

People start giving to new, different causes because someone invites them, opens their eyes, sings some praises and issues some challenges. People give because someone asks them to.

I mean, look at those Facebook fundraisers. Would you seriously buy a real gift for all those people that you support through their FB birthday effort? Probably not. But they asked. In just about the most impersonal, detached way possible. And we give, at least once in awhile.

Think how much more effective, more compelling, more engaging it would be if those asks were person to person over a slab of cake and a yummy glass of wine (oh, yes, cake and wine do, too, go together – just ask Cosmopolitan).

I realize you can’t invite your 1389 Facebook friends over for drinks, but you do have a close, lovely circle that would come and join the conversation. I’ll bet they’d go home and really think about why you are so passionate about this work.

And then, they’d give or volunteer or get their company to sponsor.

The organizations that you work for and support would be thrilled beyond belief if you were so proactive that you initiated personal contact with your family, friends, and business associates to actively encourage them to get involved.

Go ahead, do a FB fundraiser.  But, you know, more birthday parties.




P. S. Personal favorite? Red velvet and pinot noir. Cosmo got that one right.

Joan Brown