Jumo: Who Needs Whom?

Jumo is a new web portal for social change organizations, which founder Chris Hughes told The New York Times, will “do what Yelp did for restaurants,” indexing these organization “to help people find and evaluate them.” The debate up to this point has been “Does the nonprofit sector need Jumo?,” but the better question is, “Does Jumo need the nonprofit sector?” TechPresident has a nice run-down of opinions on the first question, which range from the extremely negative to the wait-and-see skeptical:

Mobile Active‘s Katrin Verclas:

What is the need for Jumo that is not already served by organizations such as Idealist, VolunteerMatch, and Change.org? Note that Chris went out his way NOT to talk to any of the three in his ‘research” Overhyped, and underdelivering – and worse, not meeting a discernable need.

TechSoup‘s Daniel Ben-Horin:

I sensed [Chris] had received blowback for not having talked to enough NPO [nonprofit organization] folks and was remedying that, but was very much in love with his concept, and wasn’t really open to revisiting his paradigm….But I think we should take a long view here…. This is a different environment than the more or less purely social one of FB. With all his dough and pedigree, Chris and his team will still have to earn trust in order to succeed, and it’s not clear to me how well they understand that or how they expect to address that need.

In the TechPresident piece, Nancy Scola notes that “the existence of MySpace and Friendster didn’t obviate the need for Facebook,” and this is one way to look at Jumo – as a design update that makes it a threat to these older organizations. It certainly has a richer and more “Web 2.0” interface than Idealist (founded 1995) and VolunteerMatch (founded 1998), two older nonprofit search engines with designs to match. Change.org, born in 2006, has the most similar style, though Jumo’s organization pages are snazzier. (See design examples here, here, here, and here).

However, the real difference between Jumo and Idealist, VolunteerMatch, and Change.org is how they perceive social change organizations. Though we have not coded the data yet, I would guess that less than 50% of the 1000+ digital activism cases from the Global Digital Activism Data Set were initiated by incorporated nonprofit organizations. The rest were started by ad hoc groups, individuals, and all-volunteer organizations. While Idealist, VolunteerMatch, and Change.org are still stuck in the nonprofit world, Jumo recognizes that social change need not come from formal nonprofits. According to Beth’s Blog,

The platform was seeded with some initial organization profiles and a focused set of issues. The organizations are a combination of smaller, progressive organizations like Ushahidi and the Sunlight Foundation and large venerable institutions like NPR and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Anyone can set up a profile for an organization (it prompts for an EIN [tax identification] number (but not required) and Facebook account url)…

By contrast, Change.org does request an EIN to register and its database of one million nonprofits is drawn from GuideStar‘s database of US-based 501(c)(3) organizations. VolunteerMatch also requires an EIN to register and recognizes only two organizational groups, nonprofits and corporations. It is clear that Idealist is wrestling with the role of informal groups in activism, and has come up with the rather vague term of “affinity groups” for “people who want to share ideas and resources get involved in local or global communities, and help create opportunities for others to be involved.” These organizations can register, but must have a permanent staff member in order to do so, which is unlikely for truly grassroots causes.

One way to look at Jumo is as the Facebook to Idealist and VolunteerMatch‘s MySpace and Friendster, offering an aesthetic and usability update (and also a threat). But the more significant update is how Jumo defines what it means to be a change-making organization. The gatekeepers of tax status and government authorization are no longer a necessity. In the digital age of low-cost access and instant organizations, social change is an open door, and at Jumo anyone is free to step through and give it a shot.

7 thoughts on “Jumo: Who Needs Whom?

  1. Hi Mary,

    Thanks for this posting. Idealist is getting an extreme makeover in the next few days, and I’d love to know what you think when the new site is up 🙂



  2. Hi Ami,

    I can see that Idealist is trying to engage with the more fluid organizational structures of the digital age. I really respect that and I hope you didn’t find my commentary too harsh.


  3. Mary Joyce – I have to respectfully disagree with you. First of all, Idealist is a completely new social networking site now – and you probably should check it out. No more affinity groups – anyone can post all sorts of things relevant to social change (events, volunteer gigs, jobs, campaigns, you name it, and it has social networking functions galore. You posted before the site launched but it might be worth amending your entry after you take a look at it.

    Secondly, what exactly does Jumo do for ‘free agents’? It’s an extremely static site that does not allow anyone to do much – much less than a regular Facebook page does. I can do nothing much but “like’ as a person or org or effort, and I can hardly do anything (as in, for example, message supporters?) as an org, group, campaign than I can do on Facebook. And I need a Facebook log-in anyway, so what is the point of a Jumo page?

    The 15% markup for donations, by the way, is more than disingenuous – have you actually checked it out? I am happy to send you a screenshot of the sneaky way that a 15% ‘tip’ is the default for a donation without making that clear (this donation “includes a 15% optional donation to support Jumo” in tiny print – really? Whatever happened to opt in?)

    I think I have been around for too long and am too immune to hypsters to be impressed with a lot of press and revelations on some African mountain. I am all for innovation and doing things better than they have been done before and I think disruption is good and necessary especially in this stifling nonprofit sector, but Jumo falls flat in that regard. And the Alexa numbers show it – user drop off is sharp and the silence in the last few days since launch is rather deafening. It a flash in the pan, me thinks. $3.5 million wasted?

    Again, let me put it a different way than above – Jumo is a solution in search of a problem. If the problem indeed were (which I would dispute) a lack of ‘connections’ or ability to interact with people, networks, groups, campaigns, etc., certainly does not answer that (perceived) problem with the current, more than mediocre and poorly executed site. Proof is in the pudding but I am not holding my breath.

  4. Katrin, time will tell, of course, and if Jumo cannot win over the NP crowd or find a new base then it cannot succeed. I guess I just come at it from a less skeptical perspective. I knew Chris pretty well when we were working on the Obama campaign together. He wants to do good in the world, is a very smart technology designer, and understands how activism works. Though it seems that he did not do a good job of engaging stakeholders, I hope his platform succeeds.

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