December 10, 2010, 2:30 PM — Mitchell Silverman noticed in running his book-trading website, Bookins.com, that even while processing hundreds of thousands of transactions involving people shipping books to others, problems rarely arise. Those who swap books take great care in packaging and shipping them, often sending kind notes to the recipients, who are strangers.
"The insight that I had from that business is that people like to do nice things for each other," Silverman says. He pondered "how to take this idea of one person giving something to another person" and applying that to help nonprofit organizations attract donors of items for people in need.
The result is The Giving Effect, a for-profit website launched in June that now has more than 1,000 organizations registered across the U.S. Potential donors enter their ZIP codes to find nearby organizations that are registered at the site, which also makes ample use of social media to spread the word about The Giving Effect and the results it is achieving. Central to the site is a revolving set of "stories" about organizations and donations they've received, with mechanisms built into the site for easily sharing those stories across social media.
Many nonprofits, particularly smaller ones, are not yet making use of social media, Silverman finds, and so helping them do that more easily is a central aspect of The Giving Effect. While prominently displayed links to Facebook and Twitter are becoming more common, nonprofits don't always fully utilize social media as a key tool to publicize their work. But they can reap enormous benefits from becoming more social-media savvy.
"I heard about it on Twitter," says Blake Raab of how he found out about The Giving Effect, which is based in Brooklyn, New York. Raab is executive director of Bears on Patrol, which is based in Carrollton, Georgia, and supplies free stuffed bears to police departments to give to children in crisis situations. Holding a toy bear has a calming effect on children and so giving kids something to both calm and distract their attentions has become an increasingly used practice by police departments. Bears on Patrol has grown to supply 24 police departments in 19 states with bears. "I saw a tweet about it and so I looked into it," Raab says. "I set us up there right away."