‘Tis The Season to Giveness.com

Black Friday, the perennial classic day of Christmas shopping and crowd control, is almost upon us which means I'll be battening down the hatches, pulling up a warm mug of spiked egg-nog and doing the bulk of my holiday shopping online.

Amazon.com is usually my go-to retailer for everything purchased online but this year I'm going to do something slightly different, instead of first going to Amazon I'm going to start at giveness.com, which in turn gets me right back over to Amazon with a bit of giving along the way. Huh?

The short version is that if you're going to be doing any online shopping this season make giveness.com your first stop. You pick a non-profit you want to help out and then search one of the many supported stores, including Amazon, eBay, iTunes, Apple Store, Buy.com, eToys, NewEgg. Once you find something you want you are redirected to the retailer's site and do your normal Amazon (or whatever store you picked) thing, at the normal discounted price, the normal store shipping, safety and security. Only difference is that now you've made a little extra money for a constantly under-funded and overworked organization and hopefully warmed your heart.

The long version is that at it's core giveness.com is a way to donate to charities and other non-profits (NPO's to those that like to sound in the know) without much more effort than indulging in the wonderful past-time known as shopping. They achieve this by a very clever use of the various affiliate programs that online retailers offer, such as Amazon, eBay and many more. Most affiliate programs offer a commission for every purchase that you send their way and often increase the commission based on how much money you helped them generate. Most individuals or NPO's can't generate enough traffic to push their commission percentage past the base rate and so don't usually see much return and that's where Giveness.com steps in.

Giveness.com acts as a single affiliate helping to pool all the purchases, so while a lone NPO may only have a couple of purchases a month Giveness takes the purchases of all the NPO's signed up and those determine what the commission rate is, helping to push it past the usual meager base rate which in turns means a much bigger commission for the NPO than they could usually get on their own.

Oh, besides just being an amazing way to shop and help out Giveness is also a social network, with support for blogs, messages, comments, sharing videos, RSS feeds and recommending and reviewing fav products. They have a very cool widget for sharing your recommended products and also sponsoring your chosen NPO. All wrapped up in a clean web 2.0 UI.

I'm not the only one that thinks Giveness is a great idea either. Amazon has featured them as a success story, so has The Wall Street Journal (back then they were known as Givezilla) as well as others.

The catch here of course is that the system only works if people use it and if people actually buy stuff. So… go buy some stuff! Christmas is the perfect season to both avoid the nightmare of malls while doing some giving along the way. Great thing about Giveness is that it doesn't actually cost you anything to give plus you still get all the same great deals, discounts, shipping, rates and selection your normally do.