Guest Profile

Anita Yuen

Head of Social Impact (EMEA)

About Anita Yuen

Anita is Facebook’s head of Social Impact (EMEA) and is responsible for the roll out of its social good products and strategic alliances with the social impact sector. 

Prior to joining Facebook, she was responsible for leading UNICEF’s global digital fundraising and engagement strategy, maximising income through web and mobile platforms via its network of national offices. 


Anita also spent a number of years running digital innovation programmes at the World Food Programme in Italy and the International Red Cross in Switzerland. Anita has been leading national and international non-profits on the use of social media and digital for over 17 years.

Episode Overview

Facebook’s head of Social Impact (EMEA), Anita Yuen, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss how they’ve raised $2 billion for good causes, connected blood donors to those in need and innovated at global scale.


The conversation explores how Facebook is using its tremendous global scale to drive forward social impact and social good.


There are more than 2bn people on the Facebook platform, which in many respects can be viewed as a global community of advocates, volunteers and donors.  Combined with the fact that there are millions of non-profits active on Facebook, this provides a great opportunity for these organisations to engage with their community in a genuine and authentic way.


Anita explains how there are various tools on Facebook, such as Groups and Blood Donations, that are being effectively used by non-profits and those in need.  


The Blood Donations product was developed in 2018 and it came out of what Facebook were observing in India. They noticed that when people where due to head for surgery in India, people would post on Facebook and ask their friends and family whether they could donate blood. This is because in some parts of India, when people have to go in for surgery they often have to bring in their own blood in case they need a blood transfusion. There is a global shortage of blood. 


After observing this, the team at Facebook asked themselves how might they be able to make this process to facilitate blood donations easier.  


The Blood Donations product has now been rolled out to various countries, including Bangladesh, Pakistan and Brazil.  As of today, Facebook have over 50m people who have volunteered to donate blood. 


Anita speaks with passion and is particularly excited about the sheer scale they are able to enjoy whenever they decide to pilot and deploy new, innovative products.  There aren’t many companies where one can engage with millions and millions of people globally.


Facebook also have created a donations tool that allows people and organisations to raise money for causes they care about.  You can create fundraisers, go out to your Facebook community and ask them to make a donation. 


Anita provides useful insight into specific case studies.  ‘Ocean Cleanup’ is a Dutch-based organisation with a focus on cleaning the word’s oceans and rivers.  Anita notes they build amazing tech to clean the ocean.  They are a relatively new organisation and have been using Facebook’s tools for approximately the past year and a half, and have already been able to raise millions of dollars by having people create birthday fundraisers for them. So, two weeks before people’s birthdays, they’re asked whether they’d like to donate their birthdays to the Ocean Cleanup – and this approach has worked extremely well.  Anita is very proud to have them on the Facebook platform.


Another organisation Anita mentioned is a UK-based outfit called ‘Help Refugees’, which was started by an individual who wanted to do something about the refugee crisis and bring supplies to refugees in Greece. They’ve used Facebook’s donations tool to buy supplies; people have created fundraisers for them; and they’ve also encouraged folks to do fundraisers for them.  Anita drilled down and provided insight into a particular instance when Help Refugees were in Calais, France, and experienced their truck breaking down; and they didn’t have enough money to fund its repairs. So, they went onto Facebook and created a special fundraiser just for this. Within a week they were able to fund the repair of the truck.


The community angle is key. Non-profits who understand their community and are able to speak to them in an authentic and genuine way are achieving amazing results on Facebook – people are looking for meaning and an understating of the impact of the causes they’re supporting. Anita explains how the Facebook platform has been very powerful in helping them reach new audiences.  Community engagement is invaluable and can revolve around moments of global crisis, just as it can around small moments, or diaspora communities scattered across the globe.


Anita sheds light on Facebook’s Social Impact Team – a diverse and highly motivated team including a group of engineers mainly based in California who are behind innovations such as their Blood Donations tool, crisis tools, fundraising tools, volunteering and all kinds of social impact products. They also have marketing, communications and partnerships specialists in the team.   Anita remarks that many folks are surprised to hear that they have people working at Facebook who focus only in the social impact space.


We hear how the team at Facebook work very closely with partners. These partnerships help inform Facebook and help them produce new products and ensure their relevance.


Scale is a theme that comes up during the conversation repeatedly. Indeed, Anita is very excited about scale and she notes that in many respects the journey has only just begun. 


For instance, the Blood Donations tool is only available in 5 countries at present, but they want to make that global. The same applies to their donations tools, which are only available in just 19 countries.  They’re constantly asking themselves how best to scale such products.


It may be counterintuitive but scaling up a digital tool to new countries isn’t as straightforward as one might think – it’s not about merely flipping a switch.  For instance, to expand their Blood Donations tool, they need to establish partnerships with governments, with NGOs on the ground and with blood banks – you need to get this right on many levels.


Remarkably, their donations tools are only available in 19 markets but, as of September 2019, Facebook have raised over $2bn for good causes and individuals.  Anita invites listeners to imagine what these sums could look like if they were to scale this globally, and the good this could do.


A bit of information Anita underscores very clearly is that Facebook do not take any fees at all for any of the donations they’re helping raise. Anita notes how 100% of what is raised for a charity goes to that charity. Facebook don’t take any transaction fees; they cover the credit card fees of donations.  Facebook has not taken any fee at all for the $2bn that they’ve raised thus far.


When asked about what success looks like in the next 10 years, Anita notes that they’d like to continue to do what they’re doing, in the sense that when they think of their approach to social impact partnerships and product, they’re really observing what is happening on the Facebook community on the platform; what do people want to be doing, and how can Facebook facilitate that in an easier way. They look to the Facebook community and to their partners to say, well, ‘what can we be offering that is genuinely and authentically useful’ and so if Facebook continue to do that Anita feels that they’re going to see their work in this space go into all sorts of different areas., with a focus on scale.


Facebook, Instagram, WahtsApp – these platforms are all part of what Anita calls ‘Facebook Inc’. They are looking to ensure best practice and innovative tools from one platform are deployed across other platforms. In July 2019, for instance, they launched Donation tools on Instagram.  So, they’ve taken learning and best practices and experience from their Donation products on Facebook and are now beginning to build these things out on Instagram.  You can expect to see more innovation on instagram.


Facebook has been on this journey for social impact for quite a while. They launched their donation tools in the USA in 2015.  And even before that, ‘Safety Check’ – one of their crisis tools – came out of the Fukushima disaster in Japan back in 2011.


Anita sheds light on the impact the ALS Bucket Challenge had on Facebook’s thinking.  The ALS Bucket Challenge took place back in the summer of 2014 and out of that Facebook saw essentially the world’s biggest viral fundraising campaign take place on Facebook.  All of these videos were being uploaded to Facebook, people were tagging friends, and so the whole thing was actually happening on Facebook but at the time Facebook didn’t have a way for non-profits to take in donations. But because of that experience Facebook started to see that there was actually a need, and a willingness, for the Facebook community to give to good causes. So, after that, they had a couple of engineers in California start to work on creating a donation button. And, that donation button was the start of what has now become a set of tools that the entire sector and the Facebook community are using. 


Anita also explains how the tsunami of 2004 was one of the first major disasters when people actually gave at such a scale but they did it online. Anita remembers that well, because she saw this as a turning point in philanthropy, where non-profits recognised the power of online giving.  Things back then happened quickly but nowhere as quickly as today. If a tsunami happened today they’d be able to move in minutes or seconds, not days as was the case back then. 


Anita’s key takeaway for listeners: she starts by letting listeners know she has been thinking about ‘purpose’ lately, and goes on to note that people sometimes may feel unsure as to how to begin supporting a cause.  She explains that now more than ever is a time when everyone can do good. Everyone has a voice. Everybody can use their voice and do good things.  She encourages listeners simply to “just jump in”. Small acts of kindness are amazing. Now more than ever people can have a voice and take action.  If you see something that’s wrong or you see something and you want to do something about it, just jump right in!

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Additional Resources

Facebook Social Impact


Facebook - Charitable Giving


Facebook - Crisis Response


Facebook - Health - Blood Donations


Facebook - Mentorship

Anita Yuen - Facebook

Anita Yuen - LinkedIn

The Ocean Cleanup


Help Refugees

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