Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas and Other Holidays: Donations as Gifts, Part 2

Merry Christmas from St. Jude's Children's research Hospital

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.

two charity gift cards

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.

Tisbest says:
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.

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.
And here's Charity Navigator's Good Card, offered through a partnership with Network for Good:
The Good Card expires 12 months after it was purchased.

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.
CharityChoice says:
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.

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.
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.

[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


Louise said...

I have "nieces" (friends who call me "Auntie Louise") whose families have no tradition of charitable giving AT ALL. In addition to their regular gifts, I am seriously considering giving them gift cards to a toy store with the instructions to buy what they think is appropriate and then donate the items to "Toys for Tots." As they get older, the balance of stuff for them and stuff for charity could shift, and at least once per year they will have practiced how to give to a charity. What do you think?

Jeri Dansky said...

Louise, I love the idea - but I wouldn't want to bet on those toys making it to Toys for Tots.

First of all, they'll have those brand new toys in their hands and then have to give them up. That can be hard.

Second, it requires a number of extra steps to actually GET those toys to Toys for Tots. Will those extra steps ever happen? (I see many people who intend to donate things but never make the donations actually happen.)

If the toy store has a place on-site to drop off donations, things get a lot easier. And if the toy store allows on-line shopping with a "give to Toys for Tots" option, you've got a real winner.

Anonymous said...
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Alyssa O'Brien said...

I recommend Room to Read as your charity of choice.

Founded by John Wood, a former marketing exec of Microsoft who chronicled his transition from corporate business to non-profit in the book Leaving Microsoft to Save the World, the organization provides educational opportunities to children of families in developing countries - especially to girls. In many developing countries, even primary education is NOT provided for free by the government.

One great thing about Room to Read is that 90% of your donation goes directly to the recipients - i.e. they have only a 10% operating margin.

And even a small donation makes a tremendous impact - as little as $250 will provide a child with an entire year's education: books, tutition, supplies, uniform, transportation to and from school, and meals for an entire year.

A $2,500 donation sponsors a full scholarship which will pay for a girl's entire K-12 education.

Room to Read operates in developing countries, primary in Nepal, Vietman, India, and now starting in Africa.

My husband gets me a "scholarship" for Christmas every year - and it is the best present I could wish for, especially as educator at Stanford myself.


Thanks, Jeri, for sharing this great idea with everyone!

Jeri Dansky said...

Susan, I'm glad you're enjoying my blog; thanks for commenting.

Alyssa, thanks for sharing how the donation gift play out in your household. Room to Read sounds like a great program.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for such wonderful advice relating to charity donations as gifts. I've seen lots of articles and blog posts suggesting donations as gifts, but I can't recall anyone else offering such helpful tips and advice on the subject!
I also wanted to offer another resource your readers might be interested in. I work for UniversalGiving, an online nonprofit designed to connect people to reputable charities. All the charities on our site pass through a rigorous Quality Model, and we don't take any cut at all on donations. For the holidays, we're offering a number of gift packages. Our site is if you're interested in finding out more.
Have a wonderful holiday!

Cheryl Mahoney

Louise said...

Jeri, thanks for responding. I hadn't thought about the possibility of the toys never making it to the charity. Hmm, the on-line option might work, though.

Maybe I'll save this for a time when I'll be in town as something we can do together...

Jeri Dansky said...

Cheryl, I'm delighted to know about UniversalGiving; thanks for commenting!