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How to run a more charitable holiday campaign

How to run a more charitable holiday campaign

The lights are strung. The malls are packed. A steady stream of mushy commercials tugs at our heartstrings while selling us iPads and remote control cars.

With the industrial holiday machine out in full force, it’s hard not to get a bit cynical about the commodification of the season. To quote Lucy in A Charlie Brown Christmas: “We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big eastern syndicate, you know.”

Sure, the holidays mean big business. But their value extends far beyond record sales and must-have toys (as Charlie and his pals learn). Come the end of November, twinkling lights and holiday jingles generate a buzz that brings people together in a spirit of giving and goodwill. Businesses and individuals double down their efforts to those in need, volunteering in soup kitchens, organizing food and clothing drives, and donating to charities.

It seems like every act of consumerism during the holidays has an altruistic counterpart—and they’re not always mutually exclusive. Plenty of businesses big and small, online and offline, contribute to charities, running cause-based campaigns and finding creative ways of giving back. And with research that shows 85 percent of consumers think better of a company when it supports a cause they care about, giving back is more than a yuletide gesture—it’s good business.

We’ve devoted a lot of space to helping you make money and stay ahead of the competition this holiday season, so today we thought we’d shift our focus to social responsibility and some of the ways your business can contribute to worthy causes. We hope this post gives you something positive to think about heading into 2016.


Checkout Donations

Major online retailers like eBay and Amazon have long been keyed into the sales benefits of charity checkout options. According to a 2013 study by eBay, shoppers spend 26 percent more when the option to donate to a charity is built into the checkout process. This may have something to do with the fact that, according to researchers at Northwestern University, customers tend to see companies with higher social consciousness as having higher-quality products.

These days, all sorts of online sellers are adding donation requests to their checkout pages, raising more than $388 million in 2014 according to the America’s Charity Checkout Champions Report. Ecommerce plugins like Checkout Donations and Share the Love have partnered with dozens of leading charities, allowing you to either donate a percentage of your pre-tax sales or ask customers to add a small donation to their order at checkout. The apps automatically track how much each charity receives, sending you a report and invoice once per month, as well as a tax receipt.


The Good Karma Sale

Good Karma is the new black. At least that’s the message Kim Krans, owner of the online store The Wild Unknown, is aiming for. Last year, feeling disconnected and conflicted amidst the frenzy of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, Krans and her team came up with a solution that she says “went over crazy-ridiculously well in terms of sales, and also felt truly awesome in the midst of holiday consumption.”

In 2014, Krans’s store raised $20,000 for health and education in Cameroon. This year, they’re sponsoring a new library. Krans has also challenged other online businesses to join in and “consciously redefine their relationship to the holidays.” So far, more than 200 stores—mostly artisans and independent boutiques like Peg & Awl, Portland Apothecary and Mara Hoffman—have signed up, donating a portion of their sales to charities as worthy and disparate as Doctors Without Borders, Planned Parenthood, and the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon.

Join the movement, get a badge for your store, and feel the good karma.



Celebrated on the first Tuesday after American Thanksgiving (not to mention Black Friday and Cyber Monday) #GivingTuesday was created in 2012 by New York City’s 92Y Cultural Center as a day to “harness the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities.” Four years later, it’s become a worldwide movement that celebrates and supports philanthropy with more than 30,000 participating organizations.

As an online retailer, participating in #GivingTuesday can take many forms. Matching online charitable donations, committing a percentage of profits to charity, and volunteering at a non-profit are all popular options. Other companies have come up with more creative initiatives—such as Canadian crowdfunding site Greedy Giver, which in 2013 handed out 1,000 loonies on a Toronto street corner with the simple instructions to “Use this coin for good.”

This year’s #GivingTuesday has come and gone, but when you’re preparing your store for next year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, give some thought to their more charitable successor. Because after all, running an online business isn’t just about dollars and cents—it’s about being a global citizen and having a positive impact on your community.

How is your business giving back this holiday season? How does your campaign benefit charitable causes—and your business? Let us know in the comments.

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