March 1, 2021

Two Groups That Help Nonprofits in a Merger

GOOD, a fast-growing publishing and marketing business that promotes social causes, is acquiring Jumo, a social networking site that raises money and support for nonprofit groups.

The deal may signal the beginning of a consolidation in the world of online intermediaries set up to help nonprofits, which have proliferated in the last few years.

“None of these sites have managed to establish themselves as the clear leader, and new competitors keep popping up,” said Beth Kanter, an expert on nonprofits and technology who is a visiting scholar at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Despite a publicity blitz that accompanied Jumo’s public debut last fall, the site has struggled to distinguish itself.

Would-be users had trouble accessing it initially, and critics complained about Jumo’s plan to retain a payment of 15 percent of every donation made through its site unless users directed otherwise. Nonprofits were surprised to find themselves featured on the site associated with content they had not vetted, but when Jumo addressed that concern, it left little difference between what it offered and the Facebook pages the groups maintain themselves.

“It became a kind of passive and arbitrary signpost sort of platform, so partnering with GOOD, which has amazing and reliable content, is probably the best thing that could happen to it,” said Amy Sample Ward, a nonprofit technology expert who used her blog to critique Jumo at its inception.

She said the deal would allow nonprofit groups to align themselves with that content, which will help attract people who want to take action and support work in those areas. “You might see, say, an informative graphic about infant mortality around the world together with content about all of the issues around the topic and links to organizations working to address the problem that you can support with action or financially,” she said. “That can be powerful.”

Chris Hughes, Jumo’s founder, said the site had gained some traction, with more than one million users connected, on average, to 12 nonprofit groups and causes. “We’ve had a really successful start,” said Mr. Hughes, who helped start Facebook and was chief digital organizer of the Obama 2008 campaign.

Jumo will drop its name and become tied to a growing audience that includes GOOD’s online magazine with an estimated three million unique visitors a month and Good’s nascent advertising and marketing business, GOOD/Corps, which provides revenue to support the publishing business by doing work for companies like Pepsi, Toyota and Starbucks.

“I’ve always felt the real potential of GOOD was to connect people wanting to take action with the organizations and businesses that could help them do that, and Jumo is the connective tissue that will allow and enable that to happen,” said Ben Goldhirsh, who began GOOD with an inheritance left by his father, Bernie Goldhirsh, who founded Inc. magazine.

He declined to disclose the deal’s terms, which must be approved by the New York attorney general.

“The money paid to Jumo for its assets will have to continue to be dedicated to charitable purposes,” said Daniel L. Kurtz, a lawyer who formerly ran the division of the attorney general’s office that oversees nonprofit groups. “The trick will be in appraising Jumo and making sure the charity gets a fair deal, which is what the attorney general will have to determine.”

The deal also raises issues for foundations. Jumo was seeded by $3.5 million in grants from the Ford Foundation, the Omidyar Network and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Thus, a profit-making group is benefiting from investments made with tax-exempt philanthropic dollars rather than venture capital, but Knight welcomed the deal. In an interview, Alberto Ibargüen, its chief, said it married good content with good technology and demonstrated a nimbleness not normally seen in the nonprofit world. “This deal will help Jumo to do what we originally gave it money to do better,” he said.

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