Businesses Giving Thanks and Giving Back This Holiday Season

Businesses Giving Thanks and Giving Back This Holiday Season
Image credit: Garry Knight | Flickr
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As we prepare to celebrate another Thanksgiving with family and friends and lots of delicious food, we are reminded to be grateful for personal and professional things. With 2015 coming to a close, Thanksgiving, the start of the holiday season, is the perfect time to express gratitude for our own blessings in life.

Related: Why Philanthropy Is Good Business

In that spirit, I asked a few business associates what they were thankful for this holiday season and how they planned to give back this year. The responses ran the gamut. Jessica Sophia Wong, head of digital marketing at, a gamified social media platform, offered what might be called "tech thanks." “I’m thankful," she said, "that we live in an era with unlimited access to technology and information, where we have the opportunity to make a real difference in this world and are capable of turning ideas into reality faster than ever before.”

I next turned to serial entrepreneur Peter Shankman, best known for founding Help A Reporter Out (HARO), a nationwide resource where journalists can find experts to be quoted in the media. I used HARO all the time, as a producer at CBS News, and continue to use it today. Then I became an entrepreneur and happened to meet Shankman, who has since sold HARO.

Now a speaker and author of the new book Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans, Shankman shared his holiday thanks with me by email, writing, "I'm thankful that for the 17th year in a row, of my professional life, I can't tell the difference between when I'm working, and when I'm having fun. I'm so, so very blessed to be able to say that."

For startup co-founders Michelle Smyth and Kristen Holman, giving thanks actually means giving back, by engaging in one of America's newest favorite pastimes, taking selfies.Turns out that more than 100 million selfies are taken daily. So, these two women behind the new mobile marketing service Pay Your Selfie have created a way to turn selfie-taking into raising money for charity. 

Their Pay Your Selfie app, which is free, allows users to earn anywhere from 20 cents to a dollar for each selfie taken when they shoot themselves doing specific, pre-determined tasks. With "Selfless Selfie" campaign tasks, users take selfies in support of causes -- instead of cash.

Smyth told me by phone that, "We have built a technology that makes connections between brands and consumers happen. It is very important to bring charities and cause-related non-profits into the mix, because they struggle with reaching consumers. Brands want to reach consumers in relevant ways, and that is what we are doing with Pay Your Selfie. We are helping charities get on mobile and be visible, to achieve consumer engagement and raise the funds they desperately need."

Related: 5 Easy Ways to Make Philanthropy Part of Your Company Culture

Starting this Thanksgiving, Pay Your Selfie will launch a "Selfless Selfie" campaign in support of Heartland Alliance, a Midwest-based national anti-poverty organization that aims to help end poverty. "In this particular case, our Heartland Alliance task is titled 'Inside Your Fridge,'" Smyth told me, "where selfie-takers can open their Thanksgiving fridge and take a photo of their food.

"In this time of abundance, it is nice to be grateful for what we have," she added. "For every selfie taken, PayYour Selfie will donate $1, up to $1,000, to Heartland Alliance." Pay Your Selfie users also will be able to donate their cash to charities as part of the "Selfless Selfie" program.

And why not? Selfies after all have become an important staple of American culture: Last summer, in a nationwide survey of 1,000 people conducted by specialty online photo printer, 57 percent of those surveyed said that it was important to them that people see their photos online and find out what is going on in their lives. Some 93 percent said they take pictures -- an average 10 photos per week -- and 31 percent said they take up to five selfies a week!

Given those numbers, the potential exists to raise lots of money this holiday season. The "Selfless Selfie" campaign runs through the end of the year. And personally I love this idea as a way to give back. It's the perfect selfie opportunity after all, to create holiday memories while making a difference in someone else's life. So, go get yourself a selfie stick!

As an entrepreneur how do you give back during the holiday season?

Related: The Power of Giving Back: How Community Involvement Can Boost Your Bottom Line