Seasonal Giving: More Reality Show Than Reality

I don’t know about you, but this past Tuesday — dubbed “Giving Tuesday” in the holiday spending cycle — my email inbox was overflowing with charitable solicitations, from companies I regularly interact with as well as ones I’ve never had any contact.

Christmas in September may be looked at as a jump start to the retail holiday selling season by some, but others think it’s simply too much, too soon.I don’t know about you, but this past Tuesday — dubbed “Giving Tuesday” in the holiday spending cycle — my email inbox was overflowing with charitable solicitations, from companies I regularly interact with as well as ones I’ve never had any contact.

A 2012 GuideStar Survey reported that half of the organizations surveyed said they receive the majority of their contributions between October and December. It’s a well-known fact that individuals feel encouraged to give more generously during the holidays.

However for most Americans, this time of year is financially burdensome. Lavish holiday meals, gift shopping, and added travel put a strain on the monthly household budget. So as a marketer in a world with ever-increasing expenses, how do you help targets take the sting out of charitable giving?

A few months back, I received an email from FitBit (a company I do interact with daily via the bangle on my wrist). They were promoting a holiday challenge to their users, which would culminate in one charity receiving a $500,000 donation from FitBit. Users who register for the challenge make a walking commitment to support one of three charities, and the charity with the most steps at the end will receive the donation. Being the competitive person that I am, I immediately clicked on the link, selected the charity of choice, and upped my fitness participation, further engaging me with FitBit.

More recently, I learned of a challenge put forth by “healthy” Northern California burrito chain called High Tech Burrito. Their seasonal giving pitch involved offering their Burrito Club members a chance to donate their “earned” free menu item to a local food bank as an account credit. In return, HTB would donate a matching $7.25 in account credit. Voila! No expense to the member, and a benevolent (and tax-deductible) gesture by the company.

But in the spirit of social philanthropy, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the “selfless selfie.” Yes, those self-absorbed vanity pics can also help those in need this holiday season, thanks to the Pay Your Selfie app. The business model involves paying it’s members a small commission for sharing task-related selfies. And yes, those newsworthy gems could each pay out $0.25 or more. But this season, that quarter could become a dollar donation (or more). Between now and the end of the year, for every selfie a user takes in front of his or her open fridge, Pay our Selfie will donate $1 to Midwest-based anti-poverty organization Heartland Alliance. While this particular challenge is trying to shed light on America’s poverty problem, I doubt users are making the connection between their well-stocked Frigidaire and the long lines at holiday soup kitchens. But maybe that’s just me.

My bigger question is: Have we now migrated to outsourcing our generosity?

Remember the highly successful ALS Ice Bucket challenge last year, with endless videos and photos of people hoisting buckets of icy cold water over the heads of the future financial gifters? Despite raising a staggering $115 million (and an additional $13 million to the organization’s regional branches), concern was raised whether ALS actually achieved their primary goal of increased awareness of the disease (although $128 million is nothing to sniff at).

Clearly the ALS Ice Bucket challenge has led the way to push marketers to innovate on ways to make their fundraising efforts more successful. But I’m not 100 percent convinced that merely “gifting” my earned “freebie” in a loyalty program, or stepping up my fitness for a month, or taking and posting a selfie, is truly a gift from my heart.

So take a minute after reading this blog post to take that $10 bucks you’d put aside for lunch, and drop it in the Salvation Army red bucket … or buy a bag of groceries and walk it into your local food bank. Those are people who could clearly use your help this time of year – and that is an authentic act of kindness.

Let’s not keep the holiday gift giving between the “haves” – let’s reach out and share our bounty with the “have nots.” And keep your selfie to yourself.

Author: Carolyn Goodman

A blog that challenges B-to-B marketers to learn, share, question, and focus on getting it right—the first time. Carolyn Goodman is President/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners. An award-winning creative director, writer and in-demand speaker, Carolyn has spent her 30-year career helping both B-to-B and B-to-C clients cut through business challenges in order to deliver strategically sound, creatively brilliant marketing solutions that deliver on program objectives. To keep her mind sharp, Carolyn can be found most evenings in the boxing ring, practicing various combinations. You can find her at the Goodman Marketing website, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @CarolynGoodman.

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