Monday, December 17, 2007

Not enough buzz for a buzzword

We're getting down to the wire on the top ten philanthropic buzzwords of 2007. Here's one that won't make the list - charitable gift cards. You can read about them here.

Why don't they qualify? Partly because there is no buzz to the buzz - gift cards are old news, gift cards for charity are just a riff on an old idea. But more important, they are not a buzzword because they were SO predictable. If you didn't see these coming down the proverbial pike, well, I guess you just weren't looking.

They may work fine, some of the key questions behind them (what happens if the gift recipient doesn't redeem them? Who gets the tax benefit, the buyer or the receiver?) may have been answered by now, and they may even raise some money for charity, but they just strike me as much ado about nothing.

Let me ask you this, if you don't care enough to pick out an actual gift for someone and you don't care enough about them them to find out what causes they care about and make a gift in their name and you don't care enough to make a gift to something you care about in their name, why are you giving them a gift in the first place?

1 comment:

Corey said...

I generally agree that the concept of gift cards and the development of this "innovation" may not be that significant and therefore not deserve to be a part of the top 10, but I don’t agree with your closing argument about the thoughtlessness of Charitable Gift Cards. What makes gift cards different than honorarium gifts made in someone’s name is that they empower the receiver to make the decision.
There are people who don’t think about and work in the nonprofit sector everyday who have truly not given thought to what organizations support the values that are important to them. Gift cards give a more philanthropic minded friend the opportunity to force people they care for to take a small step towards giving action.

Though is a slightly different process and concept, I think about their loan gift certificates in this way also. I can give someone the opportunity to make a loan to the needy entrepreneur of their choice. They can learn about the needs and pick one that matches their interests. I can follow up if they have done this and even help them with the decision if necessary. In this way, we can share the gift together! This is why Kiva loans are currently one of my favorite gifts. Charitable Gift Cards can share some of these same benefits.

You brought up some interesting questions and issues that need to be worked out with gift cards. That said, I’d hate to discourage people from providing charitable alternates to an over capitalistic shopped-out culture that we live in (especially this time of year)!