December 1, 2011; Source: Mashable | NPQ has been looking out for businesses taking advantage of social media and online campaigns to encourage customers to give back for the holidays. JC Penney introduced innovative digital initiatives for giving to the Salvation Army this year, and now other companies are also bringing social media and charity together to encourage giving back.

Mashable has compiled a list of five companies using technology-based initiatives urging their customers to donate this holiday season:

1.    eBay’s Give-a-Toy Store: eBay is partnering with Toys for Tots to feature two window displays in New York City’s Herald Square and San Francisco’s Post Street, decorated for the holidays and jam-packed with toys. Each toy has its own QR code, which will bring the toys to digital life when their tags are scanned, using the eBay mobile app. You can then purchase a virtual toy, each representing a donation of between $2 and $10 toward Toys for Tots. Those unable to get to either window display can visit eBay’s campaign website to donate, and a coordinated Facebook app and sweepstakes will be coming soon. Who isn’t mesmerized by the fun technology of QR codes–add a dancing teddy bear and holiday cheer to really get the public into the charitable spirit.

2. Kraft Food’s Huddle to Fight Hunger: Kraft Food is launching an impressive campaign informing Facebook users about the hunger epidemic while also giving back to its partner nonprofit, Feeding America. Each time a fan “likes” the Fight Hunger Facebook page, Kraft donates the equivalent of one meal to a local food bank, and the donation increases if you go on to participate in a short trivia game. Kraft food aims to provide 25 million meals in total, and will be donating four million meals through Facebook.

3.    Vayable’s Experiential Travel Gift Cards: Vayable, an international marketplace that offers local trips and travel experiences, is launching gift cards for the holidays that give credits toward travel experiences that will benefit local communities. Vayable gives you the option of sending a gift card to a friend or family member, or you can send it to yourself and save it for a future gift. And 82 percent of Vayable profits goes directly to local business initiatives.

4.    Coca-Cola White Cans: Coca-Cola has temporarily abandoned its iconic red can design to work with World Wildlife Fund in supporting polar bear habitats. The Arctic Home application allows users to earn points by scanning participating products, which will contribute to Arctic Home when Coca-Cola is scanned. Coca-Cola will be giving $2 million over the next five years to WWF’s polar bear conservation efforts.

5.    Hanes Virtual Sock Drive: Hanes is partnering with the Salvation Army once again for their third annual Virtual Sock Drive. Hanes is using its Facebook page to make charitable giving easy and free of cost. Between November 14 and December 12, anyone who clicks the “Donate Now” button on Facebook will by that very act be donating a pair of socks to an individual in need. Up to 500,000 socks will be donated during the drive. Although it may seem like a small contribution, socks are in fact the most requested item in homeless shelters.

What do you think of these technology-based charity initiatives? Have you heard of any other companies or organizations partnering with charities to encourage philanthropy for the holidays?—Aine Creedon