Making the Most of the Season of Giving

originally posted on Concept Hub

As many of us come to a close of a long weekend of giving thanks and spending time with our families, our thoughts and prayers go to those who have not been able to enjoy in such luxuries.

As we turn on the news or read any paper or even following the conversations of our friends, family and peers we are learning about more and more people losing their jobs and homes, people finding themselves in the midst of battle, both in war zones and in the places of worship or vacation.

As these events unfold people are inspired, motivated, and thrust into action.

Recently I have uncovered over 20,000 blog posts linking to nonprofit organizations in Atlanta. When we search through Facebook we find people starting their own grassroots groups or launching their own Cause application. I have found individuals documenting homelessness in Flickr. People have posted their own videos in YouTube, many bloggers have launched their own fundraising efforts which have been incredibly successful.

In the next few weeks many of us will begin or continue our holiday shopping.  As we go through the stores we will be asked to give of our spare change. We will be asked to allow our gifts to be wrapped in exchange for a small donation to charity, and many of us will contribute a little which will add up to a lot.

In times like these, when the news of people finding themselves in need is hitting close to home to so many people, people will find that they are giving more from their heart than from their excess. This is a wonderful time to make each donation personal as opposed to another transaction. This is an opportune time for nonprofits and those who support them to make the most of this season of giving.

As people show their support on the street hand them a bit of information where the can join you online. But first, make sure there is a reason for them to join you online.

1. Optimize your website – Last week I wrote about the technologies communication professionals need to know. If you have a static website, you are not giving your audience a reason to come back but more importantly you are not providing content that can spread throughout the web. Think of the stories that you tell people on a day to day basis about the impact that organization is having in saving lives and changing lives. Find the people who are already discussing the issues that your organization solves and join those conversations. But then provide each community the opportunity to stay in touch with your story by syndicating it. By syndicating your story you allow people to aggregate your message into their communities through newsfeeds in their community and in their widgets. As you post an article, video, or photo on your site you are also simultaneously posting your story throughout the web, in relevant communities who have chosen to invite your story into their conversation.

2. Show that you care too. Join the grassroots efforts. Many people who see a problem and try to take it on themselves may simply not be aware of your organization’s impact. Do not try to overtake their efforts, support their efforts, thank them for caring too and give them advice and opportunities to get involved. Do this publicly so that their supporters can become aware and involved with your organization as well.

3. Blend giving opportunities into people’s everyday lives. Many of the blogs I found that are linking to the nonprofits come from fashion blogs that discuss a charity event, foodie blogs that discuss hunger drives, PTA blogs that discuss volunteer opportunities, and so forth. Find who is linking to nonprofits relevant to you. These are people who are just discussing their everyday lives and interests. There is a strong possibility that they will be interested in your charity event, food drive, or 5k – they just have to find out about it.

4. Give people the opportunity to extend your fundraising efforts while being recognized. Provide donors and volunteers with badges and widgets that they can proudly display to show that they have supported their favorite cause. These can be displayed on blogs, websites, within social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIN, or MySpace, and even in email signatures.

For those who are giving what they can during these turbulent times, make your gift go further. Go online and proudly display a badge or widget – even if your cause has not developed their own – there is nothing to stop you from developing one.

Support your local nonprofit by including stories about them in your social bookmarking accounts such as Digg, Delicious, or StumbleUpon. Again, your chosen nonprofit does not have to take the lead in spreading their message – they have always depended on volunteers like us. Today, we can do little things such as spread the word online to our friends, family and peers and tell our story about why we support the cause. Finally, give of your talents and time. Money may be tight for some people, but we still can give the gifts of talent and time. In fact, oftentimes those gifts can have a greater impact than writing a check if we can change a life, improve a process, or provide useful training and information.

Finally, keep in mind that whether we give online or offline, whether we discuss the issues that affect our lives and our hearts online or offline, whether we take action online or offline, we are still impacted by the experience and knowledge that we can make a difference. If nonprofits continue to make that experience simple, relevant, and impactful, they will be able to extend the season of giving well into the new year.