Holiday "Family Adoption" - Which is Better, Money or Buying Gifts Off Request List?
December 7, 2004 8:10 PM   Subscribe

Our office adopts a family and we're suppose to either give money or buy them items on the list they give us. They use the money collected to buy anything on the list that hasn't been bought. My question, is it better to donate money or buy things from the list? I'm going to spend the same amount of money either way, and I'd like to make what money I give work best. I know the HR department, and the women who run the program go out and buy the items at the end, it is not some faceless charity. They indicate no preference either way.

The only thing I know, is that I would buy less items of higher quality (I feel absolutely guilty buying things I myself would not use). They'd try to buy as much on the list as they possibly can. I guess that's the only difference.

There is no/little chance of me buying an item that's already been bought.

I was just wondering if anyone had any charity experience and could guide me towards what would be best for the family (single mother, lots of kids, fuzzy end of the lollipop).

posted by geoff. to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, one benefit of letting the HR people do it is that they might be able to strongarm a store into giving them a substantial discount since it's a charity event. So if they have more cash in hand, they have more leverage.

But if you think they're just paying retail, then you might as well pick something yourself, I guess.
posted by bcwinters at 8:23 PM on December 7, 2004

Response by poster: Sorry if I'm coming off as neurotic. I have standard liberal guilt when it comes to donating. That and apparently this is a very tough year, so I was hoping to make my measly donation stretch as far as possible.
posted by geoff. at 8:50 PM on December 7, 2004

I'd give cash. I'm sure you're not the only one in the office on a budget, and they can add up the cash donations to get a larger item that otherwise might not happen.

Also, if you buy a gift, that means you have to go shopping. At Christmastime. I feel this should be avoided.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:04 PM on December 7, 2004

It depends how you feel about the actual gift buying, and how specific the list is. If the list is 'Size 10, black jeans, Levis style #42', then what's the point in wasting your time seeking that out? Just let the HR people deal with it. On the other hand, if the list is 'art supplies' and you happen to like art, then going out and buying a creative mix of supplies that might appeal to a young artist is a good thing. I had a lot of fun last year shopping for our adopted family's daughter and spent quite a bit more money that I would have donated as cash, because I wanted to get her nice things from a good store.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:10 PM on December 7, 2004

If you think you can get a better deal than retail (assuming the HR folks won't have the time/energy to go bargain hunting) I'd give stuff.
The comment that cash adds up from Slamonberry is a good point though, if there are more expensive items on the list.
posted by bystander at 9:17 PM on December 7, 2004

A few years ago, we were advised to take our list to Target. When the checker realized we were buying for charity, she gave us a large discount. We were able to buy extras. Have no idea if the policy is still in effect there.
If you feel unable to buy for unknown others, contributing to the pooled funds is the answer.
posted by Cranberry at 9:57 PM on December 7, 2004

Most stores at this time of the year WILL give a discount to an HR department. They are usually able to give viable proof of the charity whereas you most likely wouldn't be able to. Plus more money in hand means more for the family you've adopted.

I used to feel guilty about just handing over the cash until it was explained to me in that manner.

Some stores on the other hand, (especially if you've frequented them in the name of the charity) will give you a discount without blinking.

The place I used to work did a food drive every year for Thanksgiving (when I lived in Denver)and I lived closest to the deep discount grocers, so my team handed the money over to me and I'd bring my poor little station wagon in loaded down with the requisite items, usually at a savings of 50% or more over other stores.

It's up to you of course, but at this time of the year I'd give 'em the money and save myself the headache.
posted by kamylyon at 2:19 AM on December 8, 2004

i'm confused. from the question i assumed there were three different options:
- you buy something
- you ask the hr department to buy something
- the money goes directly to the family who buy something
yet everyone is ignoring the third option. did i misunderstand? if so, it's a pity, since that's the one i would prefer. the other two seem almost equivalent.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:25 AM on December 8, 2004

incidentally, i'm not sure it makes much sense to collect people's money and then go spend it at big discount stores rather than shops local to where the people you are donating to live. you might get a little less there, but you're effectively supporting the community twice - once through what you buy, and again through spending the money there.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:28 AM on December 8, 2004

Andrew--I don't think your third point is an option:

...we're suppose to either give money or buy them items on the list they give us. They use the money collected to buy anything on the list that hasn't been bought.
posted by handful of rain at 7:16 AM on December 8, 2004

I know this will sound awfully "big-brotherly", but I don't think giving money to the needy family is necessarily the right thing (if that is one of the options). Part of the reason they are needy could be that the parents are none too good with money, and if you give them cash they will spend it unwisely. If they said they needed Levis size blah-blah style whatever, it would be better to buy them that than to give it to the parents to buy booze with (I know, rampant negative generalization).

As for buying high-quality/small-quantity versus low-quality/lots-of-stuff, as long as it is new it may be better than anything they've seen in a while. I wouldn't buy obvious poor quality stuff, but I suspect a kid will do better with four shirts of medium quality than one of the very best quality. Just sayin'.
posted by Doohickie at 7:16 AM on December 8, 2004

On posting: I guess both andrew and I missed ...the money collected will be used to buy... Nevermind.
posted by Doohickie at 7:17 AM on December 8, 2004

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