By Laura C. Steele

Times have been tough for non-profits during the recession, with at least 40% of nonprofits reporting a drop in donations during 2010. In this environment, corporations can be a vitally important source of funding for many well-established nonprofits. A workplace giving campaign can raise significant amounts of money towards a worthy cause, while increasing employee morale and encouraging team building.

Experts in charitable giving realize that simplicity, or ease of use, is the best way to ensure participation. Digital technologies are helping corporations in a variety of way, to reach both their employees, and their customers, while supporting a wide range of charitable organizations. Increasingly, donors want to be engaged digitally, and are used to multi-tasking while at work and at play. So, forward-thinking companies work to incorporate new technologies into their capital giving campaigns, to maximize participation.

Below are three ways that corporations and organizations are giving digitally.

1. United eWay

United eWay is the United Way movement’s technology solution for corporate philanthropic programs.

United eWay’s platform is accessible from any web browser, and allows companies to run a virtually paperless campaign with real-time pledge tracking and analysis capability. Employees can learn about community needs and pledge a gift within a secure, Internet-based environment, and each employee can review his or her gift information before exiting the system, reducing the number of errors and follow up contact.

Using United eWay, employees can make a one time donation directly from their checking account, or can set up a payroll deduction for amounts as little as $5.00 per pay period. All of this can be done simply over the web, and the sponsoring corporation can send email updates and reminders to their employees. Some of the companies that currently use United eWay include Raytheon, Intel, The Gillette Company, Macy’s, AT&T Wireless, Best Buy and Wal-Mart.

2. Facebook

The first Chase Community Giving program held in 2010 was the most popular corporate philanthropy crowdsourcing campaign of its type.

More than 2 million users on the Facebook platform became fans of the program and were able to vote for over 500,000 charities to receive a share of $5 million. In March 2011, Chase announced an additional two-year, $25-million commitment to the Chase Community Giving philanthropic program on Facebook. The popular program has already awarded $10 million to 300 small and local charities in 38 states, and Washington, D.C., since 2009.

“This initiative is a new paradigm for corporate giving because it removes logistical barriers for small non-profits, provides a national platform for small and newly established charities to be heard, and allows individuals to have a voice in our philanthropic giving,” Kimberly Davis, President of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, said.

Social media is going to continue to be an important way for corporations and charities to reach a new generation of donors. Facebook hit 500 million users in July 2011, and many predict that they will have 1 billion users worldwide in 2012. Numbers like these make Facebook an extremely compelling outlet for charitable organizations and causes.

3. Mobile Apps

“The power of mobile for charitable giving is huge,” says Jim Manis, CEO of the Mobile Giving Foundation, a Seattle nonprofit that helps charities devise mobile giving strategies. “There is no better interactive medium for engaging donors.”

According to their website, the Mobile Giving Foundation serves as the link between a charitable giving campaign, the wireless industry and the 280 million wireless users in the US. Particularly for young adult donors, the easiest way to give is by texting. When a massive earthquake hit Haiti, US mobile subscribers pledged more than $25 million in less than three days, to the American Red Cross and other nonprofit aid groups. Text message donations totaled $2.6 million in 4 days in response to the Japanese tsunami.

In the US now, hundreds of nonprofits have signed up with various providers of text message donations.

Given the fact that the recession is still going on, companies and charitable groups need to continue to use digital technology platforms to engage donors. By incorporating the web, social media and mobile apps into workplace giving campaigns and corporate outreach, nonprofits can reach a wider audience than through traditional, paper-intensive means.