Dec 02, 2014

The Role of Technology in Charitable Giving

A recent survey by the American Red Cross finds that despite only being in its third year, 41% of social users are aware of #GivingTuesday and nearly half (47 percent) of those aware said they planned to participate this year. Since its inception in 2012, #GivingTuesday has quickly grown from a grassroots movement to a staple of the holiday season in response to the commercial frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, one organization has managed to successfully combine the power of consumerism with cause marketing in order to give back to the community throughout the entire year.

Robert Grosshandler, Founder of iGive.com

Robert Grosshandler, Founder of iGive.com

iGive.com enables shoppers to support a charity of their choice online shopping at more than 1500 participating retailers including Best Buy, Target and Toys R Us. According to figures from iGive.com, 5,324 checks have been sent to charities since September 2014 alone. iGive.com founder Robert N. Grosshandler sat down with PR Newswire to discuss how iGive.com became a success, the importance of Giving Tuesday and the opportunities that technology has made possible for giving back.

What was the inspiration behind iGive.com?

iGive.com was built on the premise that giving back can be a part of everyday life. The idea sparked in 1997 when the internet began to flourish and after a day of trying to raise funds for a local theater group, Grosshandler realized the potential of the internet as a tool for raising funds. “When you ask people to change their behavior just a little bit in order to help causes that they care about – especially something that is very local, it became a powerful idea,” he says, “It was an idea that couldn’t work until the technology of the internet made it possible.”

What makes #GivingTuesday so successful?

Ultimately, #GivingTuesday exists because of the technology boom making it easier for people to get involved. “Social media is the virtual water cooler for getting the word out and getting people together in order to affect change,” Grosshandler says, “Giving Tuesday is raising the notion that giving back to the community in every way that you can is important.”

How can brands leverage #GivingTuesday in a genuine way?

Even though technology makes it easier to put a message in front of consumers, giving back is not as simple as sending a tweet with the right hashtag. “Just like people are getting inspired to change I think it’s important for brands to put their money where their mouth is,” asserts Grosshandler. Brands have partnered with iGive.com to put the power in their customers hands to decide where they should “put their money” and guarantees that consumers will be comfortable with the choices being made.

But charitable giving by brands can sometimes be viewed as a publicity stunt rather than a genuine effort by for-profit businesses to give back, which is why Grosshandler believes transparency is so important. iGive.com practices transparency by telling every member exactly how much is going to their cause, when the check is sent, and when the check is cashed. For consumers to believe a brand is genuine in their efforts, they must be able to see the impact that was made.

How can non-profits use technology effectively to raise awareness and generate funds?

Non-profits often struggle with gaining exposure especially when the world gets noisier around the holidays. This is where Grosshandler believes non-profits should use the power of technology and individual for “micro-cause” marketing. The first thing that a non-profit must determine is what their story is. “Unlike a brand trying to sell yet another shampoo, what a cause does is compelling in and of itself,” explains Grosshandler, “Understanding how to tell its story is the first thing to get right then figuring out where to tell it becomes important.”

Depending on your constituency, you will need to address them using different forms of media, which is why non-profit communicators should learn how to put on a marketing hat in order to communicate with supporters on a clear and frequent basis. Even though it is harder to stand out around during seasonal events, they are a stepping stone for finding ways to tap into supporters throughout the year. Having an appropriate theme, such as iGive.com’s “iGiving Wednesday” becomes evergreen and self-replicates on a consistent basis.

Finally and most importantly, non-profit marketers should not be afraid to ask people to spread the word.

As Grosshandler says, “It doesn’t hurt that a couple days a year you elevate to think about it more explicitly, but we believe that every time you participate in the wide world of commerce, you have the opportunity to do good, so why don’t you?” In support of Giving Tuesday, new members who join by iGive.com by December 15 receive a $5 bonus donation to an organization of their choice. Follow the link to learn more: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/igivecom-offers-5-bonus-in-support-of-givingtuesday-300001315.html

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