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Yes, More Facebook Friends Are Asking You for Money

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By MATT STEVENS
© 2017 New York Times News Service

Perhaps your college friend asked you to support her quarterly magazine for her birthday. Or maybe your neighbor nudged you to donate to his favorite food bank on “Giving Tuesday” the week after Thanksgiving. And then there’s that pesky public-health nonprofit you’ve been charitable to in the past.

If you’ve gotten on Facebook at all this year, you’ve probably been asked to give money. And if you’re like many users, your newsfeed became particularly overrun by fundraisers during the last month or so.

How did we get here? And at what point did Facebook become a hub for this sort of thing?

It all started innocuously enough — with a modest “Donate” button.

When Facebook rolled out the new button in 2013, it allowed people to contribute directly to nonprofits through the social media platform for the first time. At the outset, 19 organizations were listed as partners.

About two years later, officials began testing another new tool: Fundraisers. Using that feature, in tandem with an improved donate button, about three dozen organizations now had a place from which they could raise money for a campaign. And by June 2016, Facebook announced it would expand its Fundraisers tool to allow users themselves to raise money for more than 100 nonprofits in the United States.

Less than five months later, that group of 100 was expanded to more than 750,000. Facebook teamed up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Together, they pledged to contribute up to $1 million to Facebook Fundraisers — $500,000 from the foundation in matching funds and $500,000 in waived fees from Facebook.

But they weren’t done. In August, the company announced that users in the United States would be able to create fundraisers in honor of their birthdays.

A high point was Giving Tuesday 2017. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the United States has become a focal point for donations on social media in the past five years. In an apparent attempt to raise the bar, the Gates Foundation quadrupled its matching contribution this year to $2 million. Facebook covered all the fees for the day.