Charitable Giving Goes Social This Holiday Season

‘Tis the season for bell ringers with red buckets asking for your donation in the name of charity – but giving-on-the-go this year is no longer limited to just the change in your pocket. At the forefront of this “social giving” movement is Keep a Child Alive (KCA), an organization dedicated to providing life-saving AIDS treatment, care and support services to children and families affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India.

Singer and new mom, Alicia Keys, is heading up the effort and hopes to raise $1 million for the charity with a campaign initiative called Digital Life Sacrifice. How? By staging a “digital death” for some well-known celebrities, including Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Hudson, Ryan Seacrest, Kim Kardashian, Serena Williams and Usher, to name a few. They’re quitting Twitter and Facebook cold turkey in the hopes that their sign-off (in effect until the $1M donation goal is hit) will incite action.

In addition to going dark digitally, several of the celebrities have filmed a “last tweet and testament” and will appear lying in coffins for ads. Other ads feature famous faces posing in “Buy Life” t-shirts that are printed with unique bar codes that users can scan on their cell phones (using Stickybits or WiMO) to donate money in the name of their chosen celebrity.

Pedestrians who’d like to get in on a piece of the action can purchase their own ‘Buy Life’ t-shirts with bar codes to become a walking billboard for the charity as well. Friends and family (and even strangers!) can simply scan the shirts to donate. And there’s still a text campaign (text “BUYLIFE” to 90999 to give $10) in effect for the non-smartphone crowd.

The campaign is a brilliant twist on the convergence of popularity contests, impulse buying and mob mentality that we’ve seen on such shows as American Idol – where Keys first realized her influence when a plea for donations raised $500K in four minutes. Plus, it’s refreshing to see the power of celebrity on social media being harnessed for a positive effect; the famous get that they’re a commodity, so they’re starting to realize that they can capitalize on that for the greater good – and quickly, thanks to this fresh and fun take with bar-code technology. The digitally-dead celebrities may not be talking, but the rest of us sure will!

Is this the kind of holiday giving campaign social media and mobile addicts will rally around? Love it? Hate it? We want to hear your thoughts.