Net2ThinkTank: It's the shopping season – so get your supporters shopping for your cause.

Britt Bravo at Netsquared has thrown out this question: How Can Nonprofits Use the Social Web During the “Giving Season”?

The truth is that this is the shopping season – so make the most of it with something that’s a touch web 1.5.

Sign up for an affiliate site and encourage your supporters to use it for some of their Christmas shopping. Over at the Birmingham Conservation Trust we opened this shop through buy.at. We chose it because it has a number of key high street brands which have a lot of public trust – which is important when you are thinking about how people may perceive your charity.

You can buy everything from a case of wine for Christmas through to the holiday you’ll need to recover afterwards, the clothes you’ll wear to the works Christmas party and even those utterly useless presents bought for uncles you barley know.

We don’t litter our website with affiliate links but simply encourage our networks to use it for their shopping. You can apply all of the tools of web 2.0 to encourage people to support you at no cost to themselves. Add it as an item on social networking sites, send the link to friends on facebook who share an interest with you or live in a neighbourhood relevant to the charity, perhaps even use it as a url when you leave comments on people’s blogs.

Be warned, it can be difficult to get people into the habit of using your affiliate site.

On www.buy.at/birminghamconservation we have one stationery trader, Euroffice, who offers 8% on just about all purchases. With deals like that why not talk to businesses you know and ask them to start consider routinely using the service to buy their office supplies.

Of course the more flexible your affiliate provider is the better for you.

I’ve got mixed feelings about perfiliate who runs buy.at.  You can’t create links to specific products or traders – which seems a little complacent on their part. For example the National Trust will pay us £20 for everyone who signs up to them through our buy.at shop. That’s a natural tie in. If we could email a link to that offer direct to our mailing list it could allow us to raise money quickly with minimal effort. But we can’t – the best we can hope for is that our supporters will wade through a series of links to. So any suggestions for a better affiliate welcome.

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