On September 19, Facebook announced that it reached a milestone: its Facebook Fundraisers program has raised more than $2 billion to support nonprofit organizations since the feature’s launch in 2015, with $1 billion of that impact coming from birthday fundraisers alone.
Thanks to the simplicity and viral nature of the fundraiser tool, Facebook has empowered each user with a voice to impact the causes they believe in – and each user’s network to contribute to these causes. According to the social media platform, 45 million people have started or donated to Facebook fundraisers.
Let’s flash back to the summer of 2014, when people worldwide got involved in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
“It was an incredible moment when people across the world were sharing their videos and encouraging people to donate to fight ALS, and we saw a unique opportunity to create specific tools that will help people fundraise on Facebook,” shares Emily Dalton Smith, Director of Social Impact Product at Facebook.
The viral spark that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge created has now led to over $2B in impact for a range of people and causes around the world. One such cause? I Be Black Girl (IBBG), an organization devoted to entrepreneurship and mentorship opportunities for black women in Greater Omaha, first launched by Ashlei Spivey as a Facebook birthday fundraiser. I Be Black Girl was one of eight nonprofit organizations invited to Facebook’s campus to talk about the impact of their work this past week, with COO (and frequent birthday fundraiser) Sheryl Sandberg in attendance.
“I Be Black Girl started as an organic safe space for black women to connect and recharge in late 2017,” explains Spivey. “As the first and only black woman in many spaces that I occupy, I was feeling exhausted. So I posted on my personal Facebook page to see if any black women wanted to have brunch – just something simple and cute. Well it turned into an event with over 80 women! I then knew, we could be onto something.”
Spivey saw this as the opportunity to keep the buzz going. So she asked her female Facebook friends if they wanted to continue doing events such as this brunch, and she received an overwhelming response.
“I modeled the group after bell hooks, a writer and intellect who really speaks to the black woman’s and girl’s experience in the world from a feminist lens. She wrote a book called Be Boy Buzz, which I read to my son, and it explores all the ways black boys can ‘be’ or exist. From there, I Be Black Girl was born,” Spivey recalls.
At the same time, Spivey noticed some of her Facebook friends posting birthday fundraisers, and they seemed to have successful results.
So she did the same: “I decided to launch a birthday fundraiser versus having a party or something else. It felt like a meaningful way to make an impact and engage folks in a cause and project that was near and dear to my heart. This year, I launched the birthday fundraiser at the beginning of Leo season and it concluded on my birthday which is August 15. I actually reached my goal in about 72 hours!”
She was compelled to keep the momentum going on Facebook: “My approach was to tell people that if they cared about me, then I challenged them to engage in a community movement that’s important not only to me, but important and necessary in the larger Omaha community. I challenged my friends to give a minimum of $10. I shared it once a day and thanked everyone that gave personally within the fundraising platform. People that contributed and even those who couldn’t, still shared it on their platforms, encouraging their networks to participate.”
The result is the nonprofit I Be Black Girl, which provides entrepreneurship and mentorship opportunities to black women and girls in Omaha. One program that was funded through the IBBGives Giving Circle is called “Peace of Mine”; the youth-led project aims at creating a self-care space/retreat for young women of color who are graduating high school and entering college.
“It was exciting to be able to invest in young people and their leadership, but also change the narrative that answers and solutions only reside with ‘grownups’,” Spivey explains.
The ripple effect of I Be Black Girl’s success is also immeasurable, as it serves as a positive example of using your voice and making an impact:
“I want other women, especially women and girls of color, to recognize their power and influence. Everyone has something they can leverage to create a positive impact on the spaces they occupy, whether that’s within their school, neighborhood or organization. So decide what you want to impact. Trust your gut and surround yourself with amazing, dope people that can add value to the work. I know this would not be successful without amazing black women that have believed in the collective and poured into it, and me.”
This individual and collective motivation, combined with the viral power of Facebook’s fundraising platform, can shake things up and change the world.
“The fundraising platform really helped to elevate our work and demonstrate how everyone can be a philanthropist and engage in a community movement,” Spivey says.
Her advice for others looking to make a difference?
“Stand in your power! We deserve to be here and we deserve to share our voices and gifts with the world. I never thought someone like me – with my identities and experience – would be in the space I am now in, and look at me! If I can do it, you can do it – and even better!”