A Charity Gift Gives Twice

A charity gift is a thoughtful way
to honor a special person when the invitation
says "No gifts please." A good idea, too,
for the person who has everything.

It is becoming more common these days to receive a party invitation from a friend, requesting “No Gifts Please.” If this is a close friend to whom you really want to give a present, consider a making a charitable donation in his or her name.

For no-gift parties, a subtle approach is best. Write your friend a greeting card noting that you have made a donation to commemorate the occasion. Whether or not the other guests honor the "no gifts" request, you can present a card without ruffling any feathers. Or, if it seems more apppropriate, you can decide to wait and mail your card the next day.

For a "yes-gifts" party for a person who has everything, you might suggest that your hostess invite her other guests to join in a charitable tribute. She'll probably appreciate your help in organizing the gift and presentation, and many guests will be glad they don't have to come up with their own gift ideas!

In either case, the recipient organization will usually notify the honoree of your gift and send you an acknowledgement for tax purposes.

So, in fact, a charity gift gives in three ways!
It gives honor to your friend, funds to a worthy cause,
and a good feeling (plus a tax deduction) to you.

Selecting a Charitable Organization

There are so many different kinds of charitable and nonprofit organizations that you’re sure to find one related to your honoree’s interests. Here is a tiny sample among dozens that spring to mind:

American / Canadian Cancer Society
International / American Red Cross
Amnesty International
Carter Center
Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières)
Goodwill Industries
Habitat for Humanity
Jimmy Fund (fighting cancer in children)
National Wildlife Federation
Nature Conservancy
Oxfam International / Oxfam America
Salvation Army
Save the Children
UNICEF (U.N. International Children's Emergency Fund)

For listings of charitable organizations by region (7 worldwide), or type (50+ to choose from), visit takingitglobal.org, and from there link to the websites of selected organizations to learn more about their activities and how you can donate a charity gift in someone’s honor.

Also, check out www.idealist.org for charities in 165 countries, searchable by name, location, and mission. You can use their search box to specify to your area of interest (e.g., “homeless”) or to focus on a location (e.g., “Boston, MA”). Links are provided to the websites of individual charities.

To learn about Wise Giving, visit www.give.org, where The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance will explain how charity gifts are used, so you can make an informed decision about which charitable organization is right for your recipient.

Everyone should visit CharityUSA.com – it’s a wonderful site with pages devoted to several charities. Each has its own online store with gifts that relate to the work of that organization (perhaps one reflects a special interest of your recipient):

  • Animal Rescue Site
  • Breast Cancer Site
  • Child Health Site
  • EcologyFund.com
  • Gear that Gives
  • GreaterGood.com
  • Hunger Site
  • Literacy Site
  • Rainforest Site

Best of all, you can make a charity gift to any or all of these organizations at no cost to you: The donation is paid for by the sponsors of this site on a pay-per-click basis. Just go to the appropriate page and click where indicated. You can do this every day!

If you purchase a gift from one of their online stores, do explain the website to your recipient. He or she may also wish to visit the site daily and click to make a free contribution.

When Local Feels More Personal

Perhaps your charity gift will carry a more personal feeling if its work is focused in your recipient’s home town. Local chapters of United Way use charity gifts for a variety of regional support efforts that may range from the Scouts and “Y” programs to Meals on Wheels. It shouldn’t be hard to find other local causes that will please your recipient:

  • Your recipient’s town hall will be aware of local projects in support of the environment, the library, or other charitable efforts that intersect with municipal agencies.

  • Your local high school guidance office will know of scholarship funds that accept charitable donations.

  • Churches and religious organizations can tell you about ecumenical projects such as food banks and soup kitchens, as well as annual charity gift drives such as Blanket Sunday, Neighbors in Need, or The Heifer Project. Many parishes also have their own scholarship funds and focused outreach projects.

  • Civic and veterans’ organizations are always grateful for charitable donations: policemen’s and firemen’s funds, Disabled American Veterans, and so on.

  • Whether local or distant, the alumni association can steer you to gift opportunities at your recipient’s alma mater.

Starting a Charitable Fund - For a very special person or a very special occasion (for example, a 50th wedding anniversary), you might consider establishing a charitable fund in your honoree’s name. Perhaps a scholarship fund at their church or alma mater – officials there can help you get started. Invite your honoree’s friends, relatives and colleagues to make charitable donations.

To honor a special milestone, or for a person
who has everything, a charity gift is a
well-chosen gift
that will spread good feelings in every direction.

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Logo photo by Jane M. Sawyer, courtesy of morguefile.com