by Jessika Hepburn, editor
I am learning that giveaways are a touchy subject. Some people love them and some people absolutely hate them. Lots of the most influential (and in my books, ethical) blogs feel that you shouldn’t really do them at all. Unless you have a ton of followers and can guarantee that the artists receive enough exposure for the expense of giving. I suggest visiting this post from Poppytalk (thank you Charlotte’s Fancy and Smidgebox Designs for the heads up!) and read the comments to get a good idea at the diversity of opinions.
When I took over OMHG we had been doing giveaways since the beginning. I didn’t give it much thought and never sought out businesses to offer giveaways. Every month I have more requests then I could possibly publish. Over the last six months I have noticed that our giveaways don’t actually attract more traffic-we have been growing steadily without any giveaway related spikes from 500 visitors a day to 1000+. The artists who approach me for giveaways have been overwhelming thankful and full of praise, but I have wondered about the ethics of giving things away. Does the artist get enough in return? Does offering giveaways take away from our content and lessen our community here?
I have some answers and more questions. I hope you will all help in making decisions for OMHG but today I want to share a bit about how a couple of our giveaways have been doing some serious giving.
Last week I delivered our big Oh My! Handmade Holidays gift basket to Liz from Friends for Refugees and Yehya, the father of the Palestinian refugee family they have sponsored. Without the giving of FFR Yehya and his extended family would still be living in a refugee camp in Syria. Worth over $950 the basket will be raffled or auctioned off to help raise the money needed to continue to support the family while they learn English and get settled into their new home, they also have a new baby on the way which presents unexpected challenges. I was inspired to give my time to help them market and promote the event locally as well as volunteer in the future. In this instance the giving continues and will positively effect an entire family and our community. One of the FFR founders, Jen Powely shared a little bit about the work of Friends for Refugees:
“Friends for Refugees, now a loose group of about 11 individuals, came together in the late summer of 2009 to help assist with an effort to bring a group of five related Palestinian Iraqi refugee families to Halifax. This effort came about through the efforts of the Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services (ISIS). Friends for Refugees not only assisted the effort but actually sponsored one of the families and has taken the responsibility to raise the $26,000 needed to support the family of four during their first year in Canada. In addition to the financial support, the group is expected to provide settlement assistance by orienting the family to their new home and teaching them how to survive in this society.”
If you are interested in learning more about Yehya, his family, and Friends for Refugees I suggest reading this article-but if you are anything like me keep tissues close by, you’ll need them.
Our second basket was shipped off to Atlanta where it will be going directly to a family of seven living in one room in the ghetto. Rebecca, the creator of the charity Blueprint 58 says this about their work and how winning our giveaway will help bring a little beauty to a family in need:
“Our ministry is a part of Vision Atlanta (Camp Grace) but we actually run a mentoring program called Blueprint 58. Our ministry helps inner city kids living in one of the most violent and poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Atlanta. We actually have bought a house in the neighborhood and will be moving in when we finish renovating. Our mentoring program is partnered with the local elementary school and we are launching the program with 10-15 3rd grade students. Right now we are getting to know the neighborhood and working on developing a more personal and well-rounded feel for their needs. There are already several families in the neighborhood that we work with closely, and April’s family is one of these families. She has 2 third graders (one son was held back due to grades) who will be part of the pilot mentoring program this year. The family spends a lot of time moving from place to place, they’ve been evicted several times and don’t necessarily have any thing “nice” or permanent in their lives. I’d love to use this basket as a chance to introduce them to the idea of handmade things. The time and attention and love that goes into their creation will mean a lot to this family, I think. And it will hopefully also open their eyes to a more permanent and sustainable way of life that goes a long with having cherished handmade gifts.”
On a personal level our giveaway connected me with Isa from Noisette Marketing who I will be working with as a freelance designer.
And totally unrelated to our holiday giveaway, one of our readers transformed her business and was given hope for the future during a really difficult personal transition because of her winning our giveaway. I hope to share more of her story in the future here on OMHG and help support her to grow her business.
I don’t think anything that can have such positive outcomes can be all bad-I have been so deeply moved by these three stories and OMHG’s contribution to making our world that much more beautiful with the work that we do. In fact without a giveaway from Zee Studios there would be no OMHG at all! I do agree there are issues with giveaways though and not all have such happy endings. I would never want to offer something here that would be negative for our site, our readers or the artists we exist to support.
So what do you think-are giveaways a positive or a negative or a bit of both? What would a great giveaway look like? Are they only good for the blog? Are they taking advantage of the artist? Are there better ways to engage new businesses and get the word out? Personally I think there needs to be a balance and a clear set of expectations. Artists need to know what it is they are looking for from a giveaway and the blogger needs to be sure they can meet those expectations and be honest when they cant. Both sides need to ask questions and make sure they are comfortable with what is being offered. I know when we do a giveaway here I promote it all over the place so that the giver gets as much exposure to our network as possible. I think giveaways should be a partnership and a relationship between equals that benefits both parties. I think giveaways should do far more then generate traffic-they should generate community.
Have you had a positive or negative experience with giveaways? Please share your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll join you-let’s talk about giving (and receiving)!