Community service

Delightful dozen: 12 organizations that raise the bar on doing good

Between Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all the other holiday shopping hype, we hear a lot about the buying experience. But this is also an important time for the giving experience. Nonprofit organizations receive about a third of their annual donations between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. So we wanted to give a heartfelt “huzzah!” to some of our favorite nonprofits.

Each organization is creating a great giving experience in its own unique way—whether by driving change through social media, disrupting philanthropy with design and technology, optimizing online donations, or simply bringing a smile to someone’s face. We hope it will bring a smile to yours, too!

1. #GivingTuesday

Over the last five years, #GivingTuesday has emerged alongside Black Friday and Cyber Monday as a post-Thanksgiving tradition—a “global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.” In 2015, the initiative drove  more than one million donations to U.S. charities, totaling $117 million. Unlike organizations whose mission is to directly support good causes, #GivingTuesday is a movement that brings people together around the values of service and giving back—and provides the tools for doing so. As its website puts it, “#GivingTuesday connects diverse groups of individuals, communities and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving.”

#GivingTuesday makes it easy to get involved with a complete toolkit with all the resources you need to get started, including free templates for emails, press releases, social media and more. You don’t even have to fill out a form: just download, print, share and start planning your #GivingTuesday campaign.

2. American Red Cross

At Connective DX we support a number of causes and community services throughout the year, from food drives to fun runs. One of the most meaningful experiences for us in 2016 was the blood drive we hosted in our Portland office with the American Red Cross, which provides life-saving blood and blood products to people in times of emergency and disasters. We were able to donate enough blood to help 99 people in need. And the Red Cross app lets us track our donations to see the impact.

3. Community Servings/Pie in the Sky

In Boston, we enjoy helping out with the Pie in the Sky project, organized by Community Servings. Each year, 150 of Greater Boston’s most generous chefs and bakers bake and donate delicious Thanksgiving pies (mmmm, pie!). Better yet, pie proceeds help provide meals and nutrition to the critically ill and homebound in Massachusetts.

Delivering pies

Laura Brown (left) and Jessica Cheng Schrepel (right) boxed up hundreds of pies for Thanksgiving delivery.

4. SOLVE Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup

Here in the Portland office, an annual favorite is the SOLVE Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup. Over the last 30 or so years, nearly 250,000 SOLVE volunteers have removed an estimated 3.3 million pounds of trash from Oregon beaches. SOLVE brings together individuals and groups to restore natural spaces around the state, focusing on beach and illegal dump cleanup, planting native trees, removing invasive plants, and other environmental maintenance projects.

Connective DX team members help clean up an Oregon beach

Tom Bennett and Sarah Taylor pitch in to make this Oregon beach even more beautiful.

5. Oregon Humane Society

The Oregon Humane Society gets points for cuddly creativity in support of their mission to “End Petlessness.” As their website says, “There’s a furry soulmate for everyone.” From the costumed Pug Crawl and Next Top Dog Model events to the live Kitty Cam and #SnuggleExpress office visits, they put the “fun” in fundraising all year long.

Snuggle Express puppy

This little fur baby got lots of cuddles during the #SnuggleExpress visit to Connective DX in 2015!

6. Heifer International

Heifer International works with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Connective DX content strategist Amber Young says she likes Heifer because they make gifts feel tangible and explain their worth really well. For example, one popular option is to give the gift of a goat or other life-sustaining animal to a family in need. For many families, this has become a holiday gift-giving tradition.

7. World Wildlife Fund

The World Wildlife Fund also makes donations feel very personal by allowing you to “adopt” endangered animals like elephants and tigers. Their symbolic adoption kits make great gifts, as they come with a stuffed animal, photo and adoption certificate. You can also choose a virtual adoption, in which case more of your donation goes directly to species protection. World Wildlife Fund also has a beautiful, mobile-friendly website. And you can even donate using Apple Pay!

World Wildlife Fund adoption kit

 8. Mercy Corps

We’ve been lucky to have a few of the most innovative nonprofits share their expertise with the Delight community. At Delight 2016, Mercy Corps hosted a field trip to its headquarters in downtown Portland, Oregon. Participants joined Mercy Corps field and other design experts to examine the role of technology, innovation and design in influencing behavior change with audiences who are not receptive to your message.

With its commitment to human-centered design, Mercy Corps innovates by testing ideas in the field, measuring the results, and scaling those that hold the most promise. For example, they’re using smartphone technology to communicate with refugees in the Middle East, bringing mobile payments to farmers in Indonesia, and rethinking how to change a broke and broken humanitarian system.

9. charity: water

Known for its innovative approach to fundraising, charity: water brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. The charity: water website makes a clear, compelling case for supporting its mission, saying 663 million people live without clean water. They not only make it easy for you to donate, but also to run your own campaign. You may have seen one of their birthday pledge campaigns, where you can ask your friends to donate to charity: water instead of buying a birthday gift. And Like World Wildlife Fund, charity: water now lets you donate via Apple Pay.

Boys playing in clean water

Photo: charity: water

In her session at Delight 2014 Kaitlyn Jankowski (with charity: water at the time) shared how her team enabled great digital experiences for a diverse range of supporters, providing status updates in the form of pictures, GPS insight, and videos from the field. “We want to inspire people to take action,” Kaitlyn explained. “Our creative team thinks about ‘How close can we get them? How can we tell this story?’”

10. Givesurance

Not all giving experiences come from the charities themselves. Connective DX VP of Digital Enablement Andrew McLaughlin discovered Givesurance, a startup that allows you to donate a cut of your insurance premiums to charity. It’s pretty easy to set up through a simple online form with your insurance company and policy information. Givesurance then gives you a donation credit of up to 5% of your payments, which you can donate to one of the 30 or so partner charities.

You may be wondering what’s in it for Givesurance. As Techcrunch reported when the startup launched out of beta, consumers effectively replace their old broker with Givesurance, which donates around 30% of its total commission back to its users in the form of donation credits. If one of the charities they partner with aligns with your giving goals, it’s a pretty painless way to support a good cause.

11. Volunteer Match

As its name suggests, Volunteer Match connects volunteers with causes they can support. Longtime Connective DX content strategist Meghan James likes the experience on their website so much that she used it as a “best in class” example for a client project.

Volunteer Match website

Here’s why Meghan chose it:

  • The site is well-designed to elicit engagement.
  • It shows the inherent connection between its two audiences, while providing experiences specific to each.
  • Volunteer Match also is visible in social channels, which serves both audiences by being easily thought of, found and engaged with.

12. Willamette Week Give!Guide

My personal favorite giving experience is probably the Willamette Week Give!Guide, described as “Portland’s easiest path to year-end giving.” Created to encourage the charitable giving habit among the under-35 crowd, the guide selects 141 of Portland’s most impactful nonprofits and “puts them under one digital roof.”

Instead of having to go to a lot of different websites and go through multiple transactions, the Give!Guide lets you simply go down the list, enter the amount you want to give to each organization, and pay for it all with one quick online payment. Then, you receive a receipt from each individual organization so you’re all set for tax time. Alerts pop up (unobtrusively) as new donations come in, and a real-time dashboard shows how much has been donated so far.

Willamette Week Give Guide dashboard on a smartphone

What can you do?

Of course this list is far from comprehensive—we keep finding more great examples! To keep from being overwhelmed or to compare different organizations against your giving goals, check GuideStar’s extensive nonprofit database. This holiday giving guide from Charity Navigator has tips for choosing organizations you’d like to support and questions to ask before donating. And if you want to put your own design skills into action for a good cause, AIGA has a great list of opportunities and resources to do just that.

We like to say “companies that are loved, win.” The same is also true for charitable organizations—and when they are loved, we all win. Do you have a favorite giving experience? Tell us about it in the comments below, and we’ll throw some love their way!