Thoughts on Giving Things Away and a Non-Giveaway

This post has a couple parts to it and is a little rambly, so bear with me!  The first part is sharing this amazing art card that I got as a surprise in the mail a few weeks ago from the High Priestess of Joy-Warrior-ing, Lis of Dandelion Seeds and Dreams, whose writing is full of wonder and awe and aliveness, and I love it! :)

Art Card By Lis -

This surprise art card made my day (isn’t it beautiful???)! I’m always super-stoked when something wonderful lands in my lap (or mailbox) without lots of striving and competing.  It just makes me feel good about the world.

Like I won a contest I never even had to enter.

And isn’t that the best feeling???

The second part of this post has to do with thoughts on blog giveaways.   I got to thinking about this because of some discussion on Twitter from Sister Diane (@SisterDiane) that really intrigued me about giveaways and thoughts on giveaways as a means to share something with the people who you really connect with and not just the people showing up for the giveaway.  And I’d just gotten a fabulous art postcard in the mail that made my day,  and that got me to thinking . . .

Giveaways can be used to try to drive up numbers and subscribers, etc.  And that has left some people feeling a bit like giveaways are just marketing gimmicks, and are part of what is making the online handmade world of today feel a bit less magical than the online handmade world of 2005.  And that makes me sad . . .

But then I remembered that giveaways are nothing new — in fact, I was having fun doing giveaways pre-2005, on my radio show at KCSB.

Spinnin' Tunes at 4am at KCSBI once I had a giveaway on my show where I gave a caller a magic pebble (and yes, I really DID mail one lucky caller a stone that I affectionately referred to as a magic pebble).  Those giveaways had nothing to do with sales or readership, and they didn’t attract non-listeners because I just did them on the fly with those few people that happened to be listening at 4am (yes, that was my time slot, and I felt really good about honoring anyone that was kind enough to tune in at that hour!)

And the Christmas Mix Giveaway felt a lot like that for me — it was about music and art and giving something away at one of my happiest, most favorite times of the year.  And it was about connection, connecting with the people who I’d gotten to know over the year.  And honestly, I love making the Christmas Mix so much that I would have liked to send it out to every person in the world :)

So, Sister Diane’s comments and my own recollections of those by-gone college radio show giveaways and getting something wonderful as a surprise in the mail made me think it would be fun to have a  a “Non-Giveaway Giveaway,” — a giveaway which can’t be entered into at this point.

I picked a winner at random from the comments of the last three months, and I will announce the winner in a week or so. 

And I am very excited about who it is!

The best thing about getting Lis’s art postcard in the mail and all of this thinking about giveaways was remembering another time and place and medium when I held giveaways that were just about the joy of giving something away.  There is just something fun and celebratory and magical about giving things away, and I don’t want to lose that.

And all this pondering also made me realize that this blog is very much like the radio show I had in college — different format, same thing. It’s an outlet for creative expression, sharing, and connecting with other people.

Promoters of joy and merry-making and creativity will always just do what they do, whether it’s through homing pigeons, or college radio stations, or the postal service, or blogs . . . or the next great technological innovation that comes along.

It’s not the means of transmission that’s important — it’s how it’s used.

Alrighty, well thanks for reading this long post of out-loud giveaway pondering  and thanks to all of you who unknowingly played along in the Non-Giveaway Giveaway! :)  I’d love to know what you think about giveaways.

And thank you, thank you, thank you Lis, for the art card that is continuing to make me smile! :)

PS – If you want to hear a funny PSA I did for the KCSB fund drive about trying to get a real DJ on the phone at a modern radio station, click here.

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14 responses to “Thoughts on Giving Things Away and a Non-Giveaway”

  1. Amanda Davis

    #1 I happened to love my Christmas mix (for real)
    #2 I feel the same way about giveaways. I have my own blog (which does not do giveaways) but I also write for a fashion blog that does SO many giveaways and it’s really just to up viewership, sponsorship and how much $$ the blog brings in. While I can see the point to giveaways and contests, there has to be a happy medium.

  2. Sister Diane

    AMEN. I love the idea of focusing giveaways to the “people who are kind enough to tune in at 4am.” (That’s such a great metaphor for true long-term readers!)

    I’ve become disenchanted with giveaways, too. I want them to be fun gifts for my regular readers, but instead I always hear from a whole lot of folks who immediately vanish after the giveaway. I had a chance to give away a Silhouette last year, and had over 500 entries, and you know what? No increase in long-term readership.

    I’m frankly a little burned out on giveaways being used as promotional tools, too. I’d almost rather give something I’ve made or some of my stash.

    So, I’m with you – I have one more regular giveaway I’ve committed to do for a publisher, and then it’ll be only drawings from the folks who’ve actually commented substantively on other posts. This is a great post, and I plan to post over on CP on this subject, too. I’ll be linking here!

  3. *Kristen*

    Amanda Davis » Awwww, so glad you loved the Christmas Mix! :) And thanks for sharing on your perspective of having a personal blog where you don’t do giveaways and contrasting that with the fashion blog you write for that does a lot of giveaways. I think you are right about there being a happy medium.


  4. *Kristen*

    Sister Diane »
    Hi Sister Diane,
    Thanks so much for sparking this discussion and for your comments. It’s very interesting to me to think about the idea that giveaways don’t necessarily generate long-term readers. It seems so counter-intuitive. But that’s why I am so glad this is getting discussed! I can’t wait to see your post on this!


  5. Stephey

    Hello Kristen!

    This is a great post! I want to give back to the people who I’ve built connections with and who’ve supported the blog. I can resonate with Sister Diane, giveaways have never worked for me either in building readership, they’ve only spiked my visitors in the short run with no lasting connection and that left me feeling yucky.

    I want to establish connection and whole heartedly connect with other artists. I like supporting others and being supported too, so building a business based on relationships is what’s up. It’s important to me not to loose sight of that, of who I truly am, no matter the platform building from, online, in person etc…

    I think some people forget that, though you may never hear a person’s voice or perhaps even meet in person, you are interacting with a human being and so say (write) and behave in such a way they never would in person, face to face, seemingly forgetting it’s a real live person on the other with feelings and rights to being treated with honor instead of a “give-me” attitude. I’ve gotten the “give-me” attitude before or else and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. yuck.

    I love your idea about anonymously pulling a name from the comment section without announcing a giveaway! SO LOVE THIS IDEA! Seems to by pass the promo give-me traffic and get back to the heart of inspiration and gratitude! LOVE IT! LOVE YOUR IDEA!

    Thank you for posting yet again, another insightful and fabulous post. Loving visiting here and learning new things, expanding ideas, love you + your blog and am so glad you decided to put it together, if you hadn’t, it would have sucked.
    :) Stephey

  6. Sara

    Such a super lovely idea! I totally experienced a similar scenario the last time I offered a giveaway. There were people commenting who had never commented a single thing before. At first I was glad to have “lurkers” come out of the woodwork but then a friend pointed out that some blog readers will actually search for the word “giveaway” and just go around trying to get free stuff. Crummy! But now you have come up with a genius way around that! You rock =)

  7. Lis

    A magic pebble – I love it! And I love your thoughts here … I too blog for connection, accountability (if I say I’m gonna do it, then I will follow through), and the magic of meeting so many supportive, inspiring souls. I mean, YOU are the magic pebble I received from Marisa & Sean’s ecourse :)

    I love this notion of a giveaway non-giveaway. After my rant against Facebook and superficial “friendships” (and yes, I still am on FB so I’m playing the game and rebelling) I decided to reconnect through old fashion means – the snail mail. And what motivated me was honoring the reality of abundance in our lives. So if my postcard made you feel like you had won a contest you never entered, then mission accomplished! Every day we are winning (OMG – do I need to pay Charlie Sheen a royalty fee?) if we really look and think hard about it. And what i’m discovering is a joy in giving strengthens my sense of abundance within me and my life in a way that entering tons of giveaways never gave me (i mean, how often did i enter and find myself thinking “lost again!” yucky experience.)

    I will say, I am probably that one rare person who went to a giveaway site, was intrigued by the item and ended up ordering it for myself (because the only thing i’ve ever won was a nurse’s timer from a office Christmas party – i was a temp for Smith-Kline and that was my first day, so i should have known things could only go down hill from there!)

    okay, this mega comment is coming to a close. I just love what you do and how you look at the world – you always, always inspire me to celebrate and support what i love: creativity and connection. Shine on baby, shine on!
    xo lis

  8. linda

    Hi Kristen. Your post is great. You have a genuine spirit and it shows beautifully. I listened to your KCSB fundraiser recording. You have a great voice. I can see why you use(d) it on air. I still love, love, love the Christmas Mix video. It’s hilarious. Sure to brighten anyone’s day. If anyone out there hasn’t seen it, I guarantee it will delight. The angel surprise makes me giggle just typing now. It is the best.
    I, too, love giving stuff away. I once sent a quilt to a person whose blog I follow just because it seemed it was better suited at her house than mine. Never heard back from her. I do hope she is enjoying it. You were nice to post how thrilled you were to receive your surprise in the mail. I’ll bet she had as much joy in sending it. Makes me feel like going off to the post office to send some lovin’.
    I like what Lis said in her comment about superficial friendships. I am really down on that right now. Far too many. A genuine friend is a true gift.

  9. Faith

    Hi! Your non-giveaway giveaway idea is so fun and I was laughing at the “magic pebble” giveaway, love it!!! It seems like everywhere you turn online these days there is someone having a giveaway, and yes, it does feel all about marketing usually, but often it is still exciting to enter! You make me smile when I swing by your space here!

  10. *Kristen*

    Stephey » Hi Stephey, I agree, the connections are where it’s at! And I am so glad I got connected with you through this crazy blogging electronic twittering world :) hahaha You are a huge bright spot in my day.


  11. *Kristen*

    Sara » Hi Sara, you make a good point that giveaways do encourage the quiet ones to say hello. I wonder if there are other ways to do that? I did not know that people just search for giveaway, either! Interesting . . .

  12. *Kristen*

    Lis » Yes, I forgot about the accountability aspect, which I really like about blogging, too. And yes, your postcard made me feel more abundance than all of the emails I got that week :) Slow communication is AWESOME!!!!!!! One thing your movement of connecting through old fashion means inspired me to do was to send a surprise fax to my friend :) I realized that faxes are pretty cool – you can draw pictures and hand written notes and send them someone instantly to someone far away who has a fax machine. And the added part that I love is that you mostly expect just to get business things through a fax machine, so I think she was surprised to see some joy and love coming through there :)

    Your comment about Charlie Sheen cracked me up!!!! I think we might be able to slide on the royalty fee, but you might have to go to one of his sold out shows to make it up to him :)
    Thanks for being such a light, Lis, and thanks for your random acts of art and joy in my mailbox, they are SO appreciated! :)

  13. deb taylor

    loving that art card!! Happy to meet you here in your fabulous space!!

  14. New Painting – Family Tree

    […] may remember a few weeks ago I had a Non-Giveaway Giveaway.  It was just my way of having some fun and giving a big thanks for those of you who read and […]