Top 5 Ways to Donate Through Social Networks

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…and the time you’re expected to open your pocketbooks and give to others. The month of December alone is when $48 billion is given to charities across the U.S. You’re online, on your phone, or on Facebook all the time anyways, so why not look there to start your holiday giving? Here are 5 easy ways to use your social networking skills to donate this holiday season.

1) Download an App: Don’t let the skirmish over the Apple ban on non-profit apps fool you. Apps are still an easy, quick way to donate. This holiday season The Salvation Army took its famous bell-ringer fundraising program mobile, offering a free iPhone app that lets users manage their virtual Red Kettle accounts from the iPhone. Another option, the iPhone and Android app CheckPoints earns shoppers points when they take pictures of the bar codes of items the app chooses to feature. The points are redeemable for not just gift certificates and airline miles, but also charity donations. And, keep an eye out for an easy way to donate through PayPal on your Android phones. The company has promised it will introduce in-app donations to its Android app before the end of the year.

2) Text: Many national charities have a text-to-give campaign where donors can just text the given keyword to the charity’s short code to make a donation that will then show up on the donor’s billing statement. You can visit the Web site of your favorite charity to see if it has a holiday mobile-giving campaign in place or, take the quick route, and view the whole list here. And here are a few examples to get you started:

• Salvation Army Greater New York: Text NYSA to 52000 to make a $10 donation

• The William J. Clinton Foundation: Text CLINTON to 20222 to make a $10 donation

• Paralyzed Veterans of America: Text 4VETS to 25383 to make a $10 donation

• National Wildlife Federation: Text NWF to 20222 to make a $10 donation

• Food Lifeline: Text MEALS to 20222 to make a $5 donation

3) Visit Facebook: It’s the most popular social networking site in the world, and a great place to spend your donations wisely. Walmart has set up an End Hunger page on the site where communities are encouraged to press the “like a community” button for a chance to win a $1 million donation from the company to the most “liked” community in the country, or $100,000 to the next five most liked communities. Over at the Salvation Army’s page, users can donate and receive a virtual kettle with their name on it that can then be sent to all of their contacts and filled as a visual reminder of how close they are to reaching their fundraising goal. Another easy option is Causes.com which has one of the largest applications on Facebook with more than 140 millions users. Visit their page to join the Holiday Wish pledge drive campaign.

4) Tweet: In just 140 characters or less, you can make a real difference. One option is to visit helpattack.com, log in using your Twitter account and create a pledge. Essentially you pledge to give a dollar amount for each tweet between now and 30 days from the day you make your pledge. OneRiot, a Twitter-centric advertising network, and oneforty, a Twitter app directory, have launched a campaign to raise money for Charity: Water, a nonprofit that supplies clean drinking water to people in developing nations. Users who use certain holiday keywords in their tweets will see ads with the words “Give Water” in large text and, just clicking the ad brings users directly to a donation page.

5) Catch a Clip: Not just the domain of jumping cats and dancing babies, YouTube can be a force for good. Charities are using the site’s visual impact to tug at donors’ heart strings with inspirational videos. The YMCA in Fort Worth, Texas, for one, produced a video that told the emotional story of a boy named Matthew who was born premature but, at the age of 7, learned to swim at the Y. And rap artist Nelly has partnered with DoSomething.org in a new video challenge that asks teens around the country to join their “Tackle Hunger” campaign and collect 1 million pounds of food in December.

*** And here’s a bonus if money is tight and you’d rather give of yourself. A generosity campaign, “How Good Grows,” from Yahoo! invites people to conduct random acts of kindness and update their online status to get others to join in. On the kindness.yahoo.com website, post status messages and watch as your ripple of kindness grows on the site as you inspire your social networking friends to also do kind acts. The ripples will grow bigger as more people click on the status messages and do kind acts of their own.

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