Giving a donation as a gift this year? That can be a wonderful idea, but here are three things to consider.
1. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Know your gift recipients. Donations work for some, not for others.
Many people are delighted to get such a gift; others agree with Miss Manners, who had this to say about the gift of a goat (given to a family in need, in another country):
Your friends did not give you a present. They got a twofer out of their philanthropy by merging their gift list with their charity list.But other people have this type of reaction:
My best friend just sent me a note saying she wasn't buying my kids gifts this year and was instead donating to St. Jude's Children's Hospital in honor of my kids and because she's so grateful that we haven't had to deal with any serious health concerns with them. I thought it was lovely.[via cooker girl on Metafilter]
2. Consider how to tell people that you're giving a donation in their names. Again, people on Metafilter had some good suggestions; these all have to do with donations to a food bank, but you could use a similar approach for other donations. Here's the first:
In honor of your generous spirit and big heart, this year I've donated to X Foodbank in your name. This donation will feed X # of hungry people and families [surely the food bank can tell you those numbers]. In this time of economic upheaval, it's more important than ever to help in any way we can. I wish you the Merriest of Christmases [or whichever holiday you're celebrating] and a Joyous New Year!Here's another:
If you have any sort of family tradition of sharing big holiday meals, could you reflect on a memorable holiday meal you all shared. Along the lines of: Do you remember the time Aunt Mabel [did something humorous], and Grandma Betty made a [memorable dish], and we all ate our weight in Uncle Joe's homemade [holiday treat]? I was thinking about how special these holiday meals are, and so for this holiday season, I have donated [$X] to the [foodbank] in your honor, in hopes that another family might be able to make the type of memories we share every year.
3. When donating to a charity, you can make a donation directly to that organization in the person's name, or you can buy a gift card which allows the receiver to choose the charity that will benefit. Consumer Reports points out that those charity gift cards often have the same issues as other gift cards: fees, expiration dates, etc. Delays in actually getting the funds to the charities is another issue.
I just did some checking, and here are some of the policies I discovered.
Our policy is to transfer funds associated with a Gift Card to the selected charity in the calendar quarter following the calendar quarter in which the card is spent. For example, if a card is spent in the first quarter of a year, we aim to transfer the funds associated with that card to the selected charity in the second quarter of that year. We may transfer funds sooner or later if circumstances dictate.And here's Charity Navigator's Good Card, offered through a partnership with Network for Good:
Unused Charity Gift Cards expire on the 1st anniversary of the date on which the card is purchased. For example, a card purchased on 1/5/2008 expires on 1/5/2009.
The Good Card expires 12 months after it was purchased.CharityChoice says:
Are there fees for purchasing a Good Card? There is a $5 fee per Good Card for processing and handling, of which, Charity Navigator receives half. This fee is tax-deductible and it covers the credit card and PayPal charges so that 100% of the gift will be donated to the charity of the recipient's choice. The fee also covers the cost of the physical card with postage or the HTML email delivery to the recipient.
Charity Distribution: The charities are sent funds from designations made to them on our website, quarterly. A modest 10% administrate fee plus $.50 per card is deducted from the funds prior to allocation. ... Cards do not expire and will be honored, for gift-recipient redemption only, at any time.And here's JustGive:
There is a $5 fee for an online gift card and each additional card is only $2. There is a $5 fee for each mailed gift card, which covers the production and delivery of a GiveNow Card. ... There is no expiration date for gift cards.None of this may be a concern to you, but you should still be aware of the terms and conditions of any card you purchase.
Once I redeem a GiveNow Card, how much goes to the charity?
Ninety-seven cents of every dollar you donate. Only three percent is deducted to cover processing costs.
[Food bank figures from Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.]
Want more clutter-free gift ideas? You can find links to all articles in this gift-giving series here:
Christmas and Other Holidays: A Clutter-Free Gift Guide