It’s the holiday season, and ’tis the season for giving!

Since one-third of donations occur in the month of December (source: Network for Good, Chronicle of Philanthropy), digital plays an increasing role in expanding the reach of requests for donations, in creating a propensity to give, and in delivering connected experiences that even themselves provide community benefit.

Known as ‘digital philanthropy,’ more and more donations are digital and utilizing mobile, social media, web and video. Growth of online donating has increased to 11.8% year-over-year, while overall giving increased 3.8% (source: Blackbaud, Charitable Giving Report: How Nonprofit Fundraising Performed in 2012, February 2013).

salvation armyEasy Giving via Text Message

Donations come in all sizes and packages. The one we often hear about most is donating money  via text message. To donate for typhoon relief in the Philippines via the Salvation Army, for example, all you need to do is text TYPHOON to 80888. And with just a click or two you’ve made a contribution. Quick, simple and immediate.

Keeping Kids at the Forefront 

You’ve probably also seen the banners on Facebook to donate, and even iTunes has created a way to donate online. Many of the millennials, often thought of as not as generous as their elders, tend to donate smaller amounts but they are actually very quick to give. Two of my personal favorite organizations are:

Santas Helper– The “Family Giving Tree” which my team at Cisco supported with toys and time, and which will provide gifts to 65,000 children in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay Area this season; and

– The “Santa’s  Helper” campaign, which uses the web and PayPal to benefit foster children and young adults via the Unity Care Group (disclosure: I volunteer on their board).


Virtual Santa 

One digital philanthropy opportunity I really like is the Cisco Santa Connection. Cisco teams up with more than 50 different hospitals to provide children who are hospitalized during the holidays the opportunity to visit with a virtual Santa.

Using either an iPad or video monitor and web-enabled camera in the hospital, and Cisco TelePresence from our North Pole studios, children can share their wish lists directly with Santa, followed by a holiday party with their families. Cisco crew members donate their time and expertise, and Cisco donates its extensive studios and network resources to make these heartwarming personal connections possible.

 Playful Fun with Viral Benefit to the Generous Giver  

Another fun holiday moment was the WestJet Christmas surprise. After travelers at Toronto and Hamilton International airports shared their wishes with a virtual Santa at their departure gate, they were later shocked when they waited at their destination baggage claim. Instead of their luggage coming down the conveyor belt, down came all of the Christmas requests they had asked for just hours before … ­ a choo-choo train for a young boy, an Android tablet for another, a flight home for one woman, some socks and underwear for a more practical (and skeptical) passenger, and even a big-screen TV for one fortunate couple.

 Thousands of Gifts, Both Large and Small 

And let us not forget those generous of spirit to pay off layaway plans anonymously for parents to enjoy the holidays with their kids, or those who donate large or small amounts in various other ways to a wide variety of needy organizations and individuals at this time of the year. All are definitely holiday miracles.

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, as it encourages our traditions of giving thanks and sharing our blessings with friends and family, and with strangers. Happily, the holiday spirit is alive and well everywhere we look — and more often than ever, it has a digital footprint.

However you give, I wish you happy digital holidays!



Mark Yolton

Vice President of Digital

Cisco Marketing