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Holiday Giving gets a 21st Century Reboot

By Elke Hautala

It’s officially December.

In Seattle that means cold rainy days, long dark nights but exciting new tech to make your holidays shine.

While we’re following visions of sugarplums from shopping to decorating, there’s another side of the holidays too. Don’t worry this isn’t an Ebenezer Scrooge style guilt trip  — I enjoy a good eggnog and Lifetime holiday movie special as much as the next person – but one of the incredible things about this time of year is the focus on giving.

It’s not something Christmas has a monopoly on either. Hanukkah and Kwanzaa each also have strong traditions of giving back to the community. There are lots of causes out there and sometimes it’s hard to pick just one. Let the spirit of the holidays, and your new iPhone, guide you!

Yes, technology has entered the holiday fray and now it’s not just in presents under the tree.

This year has been a tough one for weather. Disaster Relief has been an important cause and they still need funds in places like Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico. It takes a long time to rebuild after a hurricane and we’ve had some doozies this year.

Now you just need a cell phone to send funds to those who need it most. The Mobile Giving Foundation has made this possible for a wide range of devices through a myriad of supporting partners.

Using a keyword and a shortcode you can donate to everything from The Red Cross to the ACLU. With small amounts from $5-$25 it’s affordable for almost everyone whether you’re expecting a big work bonus this year or saving change in a piggy bank.

What a difference a day makes. We’ve all come to expect the urgency of a deadline from websites such as Kickstarter where timing is everything. The Seattle Foundation has taken this to heart for their annual 24-hour online nonprofit fundraising event called GiveBIG. Their goal “is to simplify giving and strengthen the impact of philanthropy for the more than 1,200 individuals, families, businesses and nonprofits” that they serve.

This is truly the way to support organizations making a difference in your community whether your passion is for working with underserved youth, preserving history or eradicating homelessness. Check back on their website for all the 2018 details!

One local business primarily known for beautiful holiday greenery is combining social media with giving in a uniquely holiday themed campaign. Swansons Nursery in North Seattle has partnered with the Ballard Food Bank this year. They will be “donating one food item to the Ballard Food Bank for every photo posted” on Instagram or Twitter with the tag #sharingswansons.

They’ve made it really easy too with a whole yurt full of holiday photo ops from sleighs to presents to decorated trees. This is my kind of holiday giving; I just barely resisted donning an ugly Christmas sweater while trying out all of their spots for pictures. For those of you more into traditional donations, you can bring non-perishables with you. Don’t forget to check out their Star Wars themed miniature train set (seriously, you can’t miss Han Solo wrapped in carbonite as a present for Jabba the Hut).

If the phrase “gift exchange” conjures up images of drawing names from a hat and getting Bob from accounting for the third year in a row, you need to check out elfster.com. Welcome to the 21st century holiday gift givers! They have everything you need for playing secret santa with an easy online set up, coordinated phone apps and in the true spirit of the season it’s free.

Companies such as Apple, Amazon and Comcast are making it easier than ever to donate to causes you love by increasing technological advances for your devices, Internet and wireless service. You might be surprised to find out that the giving doesn’t stop when January 1st rolls around.

For instance, Comcast emphasizes community service in three programs: The Today Show Toy Drive, A United Way Partnership and Comcast Cares Day. The popular TV show’s “Toy Drive has made the holidays brighter for more than 3 million children.” For Comcast Cares Day of local community service, since it “began in 2001, volunteers have contributed more than 5 million total service hours.”

It’s truly commendable how our technology has made it so much easier to move funds where they are needed right away. The mere press of a button now has the power to transform lives. In the midst of our increasingly busy days, we can’t forget the value of face-to-face interaction too. Especially when it comes to teaching the next generation. Choose a cause you care about, find a place in your community where you can make a difference and volunteer for a day. Don’t worry you can still use your smart phone to set it up.

For more information on Comcast’s commitment to community service visit here.