Looking for ways to display charitable gift donations
November 12, 2018 4:50 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are done with buying physical holiday gifts for our large families, and are actively opting out of it, their judgment be damned. We would like to make donations in their names to some awesome charities, but this will probably go over better if we can somehow format this into a letter or gift packet, or something else they can touch. Please suggest charities that already do this, or ways I can do this myself without too much emotional/physical labor!

We have been donating 95% of the items we receive for years, and no one needs anything on their end either. Last year's pile under the tree was embarrassing and wasteful and I never want to see that again. A few people have been making some encouraging noises about stepping away from this tradition, but no one's agreed on anything so we're taking the first step.

I would still like to physically hand them something though, and I'd rather not craft a lovely card with a deeply meaningful message myself. I'm kind of exhausted from finding gifts for 7 birthdays this November, so the emotional labor for the holidays is going to running on fumes.

Are there any awesome charities out there can will send a lovely physical letter or packet for me instead? I will print off a digital receipt if it comes down to it, but something a little more official would be nicer. Any help here would be appreciated!
posted by erratic meatsack to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
We use TisBest because you get physical cards (similar to plastic credit cards) that allow the recipient to choose from a wide selection of charities. You just load the card with a set amount and the recipient chooses which non-profits they want to contribute to. We order 50 cards to give out throughout the year and they charge about $1 per card on top of the card value plus reasonable shipping. It's awesome because you can customize the cards - we do - and people just love them!
posted by rada at 5:25 PM on November 12, 2018 [9 favorites]

Heifer International includes the option for "honor cards" that they will send to your recipients. Bonus you are giving the gift of cute animals.
posted by metahawk at 5:25 PM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

[Answers need to answer the question asked -- how can we present charitable donations nicely-packaged? -- and not debate the premise.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:37 PM on November 12, 2018

Most of the donations structured as an "adoption" produce a nice certificate, with various display options. Here's an example.
posted by krisjohn at 12:07 AM on November 13, 2018

I've written cards like that for donors upon request. The first one took a bit, but then I got a structure figured out and they flowed easily enough. The charity I was running is predominately local, so usually the donor would bring me a card they liked and I'd write in it for them, and it would feel pretty personal compared to those tax receipts or even a more standard thank-you on our cards. Anyway, what I'm saying is, that is something you can just ask for. I'd agree that the "adoption" structure lends itself well to warm fuzzies, but I've written heartfelt notes about rent money too.
posted by teremala at 3:50 AM on November 13, 2018

The charity Feed My Starving Children, which "provides nutritionally complete meals specifically formulated for malnourished children," sells a category if items they call "Donation Items" which are a small item with a deliberately-inflated price that acts as Something More Than Just A Card.

Right now there are a couple of t-shirts (like this) and a couple of small Christmas ornaments (like this) for a set price.

They also offer a wide variety of "Donation Cards" with different pictures (and one brief message), and you specify the value.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:44 AM on November 13, 2018

Mercy Corps will let you select a card that can be printed, emailed, or mailed USPS. The cards are for specific services that Mercy Corp provides, but the donation just goes into their general pool of funds:

"Mercy Corps will use your donation to save and improve lives in the world's toughest places. The gifts you purchase are examples of what we do. To help deliver the most effective solutions to the greatest number of people, your donation will be combined with other funds and used as it is most needed. The gift descriptions on this website reflect the kinds of support Mercy Corps provides to the people we serve."
posted by amarynth at 6:44 AM on November 13, 2018

First pick your charity. Pick your charity carefully to be something your recipient would really care about. This is critical. Second make the donation early, using the name and info of the recipient so that you get a receipt they can use for their income tax. (Make sure the charitable organization will not go after the recipient for future donations by having your address used as the contact, or ticking the appropriate box.) When you get the receipt you may get something suitable to enclose with the receipt, either already printed, or that you can print from the e-mail.

Use the charities presence on the internet to find more printable materials. Copy paste their promotional pictures, or their text.

Then hie yourself off to the dollar store and look for something that matches your gift. For example if you donate to you local cat rescue, look for a toy cat, or for a cat toy or a single can of cat food. Smaller is better so as to waste less material. If you donate to wildlife rescue, look for a suitable toy animal - elephant, wolf, whatever. If you can find a toy plastic rhinoceros hack the horn off crudely so that it will be safe from poachers. If you donate to a domestic violence shelter some item of home decor, to the art museum a small blank canvas. If you donate to Amnesty International buy stationery. If you donate to preserving the Amazon rain forest go to your local store that sells plants and get a small tropical or have a beautiful colour picture of a tropical rain forest printed . You could also go to a store like Ten Thousand Villages and get something fair trade. If there are three people in the family you are giving two give three items, one labelled for each of the people. They should each get a can of cat food and it should be a different flavour and coloured label, or their toy cats should all be different colours, or one gets hand sanitizer, one gets coffee shop coupon for free coffee and one gets a pair of socks if you are donating to a homeless shelter.

Get a large, used box and some used packing material to stabilize this item in the centre of the large used box. Include the receipt and a note of explanation. This little cat represents the 500 cats at Rescue MeOw who were fed by your gift. Give them suggestions what to do with the toy cat: Donate it to your children's charity or donate it to Rescue MeOw, keep it as a mascot, give it back to you next year, with a matching donation to the same charity, give it to someone else and try to start a chain going where the item goes to a new recipient every year.

This may be more emotional and organizational labour than you want, so alternatively pick one charity for all five, or thirteen or however many friends and relatives you are including, and get five items that all pertain to that charity - or thirteen items suitable to donate to a battered women's shelter, ore eleven different savanna animals from a zoo animal set or nine cat care items. Let the recipients know that they have part of a set, and ask them to bring their gift to your holiday gathering to be displayed as part of the set, showing their participation in your much larger donation. A theme such as Noah's Ark, can also be used to tie multiple recipients gifts together, even if they have separate donations to separate charities, all involving animals or animal habitat.

This should be fun -if it isn't, you're doing it wrong.

Home made gifts made by you are also fun. If you are artistic you could draw, bake, or knit matching individual items to go with the donations. Spend a happy afternoon at home drawing animals in ink, one per recipient. Knit seven different monkeys for your climate change donation. This is only an option if you really enjoy drawing and knitting.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:54 AM on November 13, 2018

Ooh, I've got a great one for you: we just got a catalog from World Wildlife Fund that does exactly this - with donations of a certain amount, you get a small (or large) plush animal. There are hundreds of animals to choose from, so you should be able to tailor the gift to someone's interest. I've been considering doing this myself this year! In the past I've done the honor cards from Heifer International and they've gone over well as well.
posted by widdershins at 10:58 AM on November 13, 2018

When I do this, and I do it often, I find something small but tangible to go with the certificate for the gift, which I print on color paper and insert in the card (birthday, Christmas, whatever). If it's for Christmas, I like a themed tree ornament to go with. For example, you've gifted an Alpaca from one of those organizations, and you attach the card to a little alpaca ornament. It's somewhat practical and not too large. If it's a donation that's specific to a region of the world that has a widely exported consumable, get them something from there (eg coffee or chocolate from the region in question).

PS, If you're concerned about getting a tax receipt for the donation, check the status of the organization. I did this through Heifer Int'l last year and found they lost charitable status so the deduction wasn't allowed by the tax authorities.
posted by Pomo at 5:19 PM on November 13, 2018

An ornament themed to your donation might be a nice memento of the donation too. This works best with animal orgs but I'm sure you could find something for most any charity. Maybe write the year and charity on the ornament too.
posted by vespabelle at 8:59 PM on November 14, 2018

It may be more work than you're after, but I got a handful of animal figures at a toy store and then each year I send my folks one of them for their creche along with a Heifer donation of the same animal. I think they wrote the year on the bottom and they've said they really like seeing their creche grow. If your family set up creches for Christmas, you could get a barnyard set and portion it out amongst your family. If not, maybe a Christmas ornament of the same animal for everyone and everyone gets the same donation. I've also had the stuffed animal with animal adoption from WWF go over very well, but that may be more stuff than people want. Both organizations can give you stuff to at least print out explaining what good things get done thanks to the gift, as well as cards, so you shouldn't have to do any creative writing.

What I have learned is that the years I gave cards, the donation was forgotten by the next Christmas. When people had something tangible, even just something that came out at Christmas, they continued to have happy feelings about it later on. This may or may not matter to you.
posted by Margalo Epps at 6:18 PM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

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