Image by Eduardo Deboni via Flickr
When Charity is not Charitable
In lieu of holiday gifts to employees, vendors, customers or even family members, you opt to donate to a charity in their name. You feel good that you have given a meaningful gift. After all helping the sick, needy, homeless or starving child is much better than a box of chocolate, holiday basket or scarf. Right? While your insides may be warm and mushy from your charitable act the recipient may not be feeling your vibe.
At my old job, someone had the great idea one year to give to a charity in lieu of gifts to clients. Our Marketing Department (I had not made the move to Marketing yet and was a Sales Manager.) worked with vendors and ordered customized holiday cards that wished our customers Happy Holidays and proudly declared the gift that was given in their name. It was a disaster. It turns out that our customers preferred calendars and calorie laden gifts to a gift in their name.
My region negotiated a discount with See’s Candies and used our expense budget to make our customers happy with chocolate. The company went back to tradition the following year.
This was a noble idea that went horribly wrong. My company did a great thing for the charity by giving them exactly what they needed – money. However, they did a disservice to their customers by failing to remember the primary reason for giving – the recipient.
A gift should make the recipient feel valued. A donation in their name, unless expressly requested, can look like a “cheap” way out of putting thought and money into a “real gift.” Customers who have spent their dollars with you, vendors who have served you or employees who have contributed to your success appreciate knowing that their support was meaningful. It would have been far better to send a holiday card with a sincere message than a “donation in your name” message.
The recipient may not agree with your choice of charity. While giving a goat to a family in a third world country seems like a perfect gift to you, your recipient may not share your belief. Remember this is your gift to them not to yourself.
Instead of a donation in lieu of a gift, consider the following alternatives:
- Many charities sell gift items. A portion of your purchase supports the charity. This is a great way to benefit the charity and give a wonderful gift.
- Buy your holiday cards from a charity. For many years, I bought cards from one of my favorite charities instead of retail stores.
- Volunteer or raise money for charity as a group. Ask colleagues and family members if they’d prefer to skip the gift exchange in favor of a charitable pursuit (more on this later in the week).
- If you are a business owner, give a gift to charity and announce it to customers. You can still share the joy with customers by putting a blurb in your newsletter or website.
I am a firm believer in charitable giving but when it comes to gifts, do consider the receiver. If the cause is not meaningful to them you may want to opt for the box of chocolates instead.
Have you ever received a gift that left you feeling giftless? How do you feel about cause related gift giving? Join the discussion and let’s learn and laugh together.
- Great tips and ideas when cause related giving fits the receiver. Charitable Holiday Gift Ideas
- Holiday Gift Guide for Social Entrepreneurs
- Shop for Charity – Find causes to support and charitable gifts to to give
- Scarves for Sofia – Handmade scarves, proceeds will help a family with their international donation.
- Lillie Amman’s Christmas Giving Tips and Suggestions