Thanks for the, um, gift?
December 2, 2018 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Not sure what to do here. I received a card in the mail letting me know that a couple I am friendly with, and also have a business relationship with one of them (my financial person), donated to a charity in my name for the holidays.

I'm fine with the charity (a food bank), and fine that a donation was made in my name. These are lovely people and I like them a lot, but we are not so close as to ever have exchanged gifts. So this is definitely not a, "Waaah, they didn't get me anything but donated to a charity instead," complaint.

I usually am pretty good with questions of etiquette, but I'm feeling kind of stumped about a thank-you. The charity will, I'm sure, thank them, as it is the recipient of the gift. Do I thank them, too? If so, what am I thanking them for?
posted by Dolley to Human Relations (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We sometimes donate in the name of family members around the holidays. One year we got a lovely thank you from a niece who wrote something like, "Thank you for remembering us in your yearly giving!" It seemed perfect to me at the time and might work for you.
posted by maurice at 10:13 AM on December 2, 2018 [32 favorites]

You like them, you have a business relationship with one of them, you approve of the charity. A thank-you note would not be out of place, and would make everyone feel good. I'd be direct and brief: "thanks very much for contributing in my name to Food Bank X. I hope you have a great holiday season."
posted by ubiquity at 10:18 AM on December 2, 2018 [6 favorites]

Yeah, that sounds like a business thing--the charity equivalent of the boxes of cookies that we used to get from our vendors when I worked in business. Just a professional-style thank you would cover it; there's no reciprocation required.
posted by gideonfrog at 10:21 AM on December 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

Gift-giving can be fraught. If you have a business relationship, maybe this is one way the business is thanking clients while at the same time donating funds and taking a write-off. Lots of businesses these days (especially small ones) are trying to find ways to “give back.” You could just send them a note or email that says, “What a neat thing you’re doing with the food bank! It was lovely to receive the note. Happy holidays!”
posted by amanda at 10:24 AM on December 2, 2018 [7 favorites]

I don't know whether this makes any difference, but the card was hand signed by "Jane," from "Jane and John Doe." John is the one i have a business relationship with, in addition to a lovely friendship.
posted by Dolley at 10:42 AM on December 2, 2018

That it was Jane not John does make it a bit odd. If it's a smallish business, this doesn't exclude the chance that John's business does this as their gift plan, and Jane wanted to sign yours because she knows you. Is there any kind of business social media that might mention this, or do you know other clients that you can see if this is something they got too?
posted by aimedwander at 11:17 AM on December 2, 2018

I'm pretty cynical, but the way I see this, they decided to take their holiday gift giving spending and direct it to charity instead. This is admirable and all, but I don't see what that has to do with me (you). The card is to relieve their guilt about not giving you a holiday gift. Now, I'd be pretty put off by anyone assuming to do anything in my name, admirable or not. This is the sort of thing that I might say "Thank you for your thoughts" and not mean it at all, but I'd probably just let it go without mentioning it one way or the other.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:53 AM on December 2, 2018

I wouldn't think too hard about it. Your Christmas present from them came early—they probably didn't fully think through when it would arrive, or didn't expect you to open it immediately, or whatever. It was signed by Jane because she does the emotional labor in the house—figuring out Christmas cards and presents are things that disproportionately fall on women to handle, I mean my own parents are the same way. It is what it is.

You treat it like any other Christmas present, by thanking them for it. I'm actually having kind of a hard time figuring out what the confusion is here.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:25 PM on December 2, 2018 [13 favorites]

The card is to relieve their guilt about not giving you a holiday gift.

This is pretty uncharitable (heh). Lots of organisations have policies about giving, and receiving, gifts. A donation means there's no real suggestion of buying favour.

Also, as someone that sometimes works with agencies etc that do gifts, fucked if I want a bottle of wine (I barely drink) or some stupid branded doodad crap I could buy myself. It's the giving season, I would much prefer every corporate Christmas invite I got sent fifty bucks to a food bank.
posted by smoke at 12:35 PM on December 2, 2018 [11 favorites]

One more possibility is that the thinking behind it comes from the world of "don't give us gifts, we have too many material things, if you really want to give us something here are some charities we'd be happy if you donated to" - only in reverse. In addition to which it can be hard to know what to get people (do your giftees have food sensitivities, are they recovering alcoholics, do they hate pears, etc.) and this kind of donation could seem universally unobjectionable.

Agreed with the suggestion that Jane signed the card because Jane is doing the emotional labor.

Anyway, you just say 'thanks, what a lovely idea, happy holidays and let's get together if applicable'.
posted by trig at 12:41 PM on December 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

There's another possible motive - they involved you to expose you to this charity, let you know that they support it, and perhaps hope that you'll choose to support it as well.
posted by DrGail at 1:35 PM on December 2, 2018

I cannot imagine writing a thank you note for someone giving a present to someone else. The fact that other posters not only can, but suggested wordings is probably indicative of our relative positions on the Great Wheel. Try not to step on me next time around.

The time this "a donation has been made" thing really cramps me is when it's an adult "teaching the young ones a lesson about giving," gives me a pain right in my hallmark. When it's someone you have a business relationship with, it seems more like them using part of their advertising budget to say "we're a terrific socially-responsible company and you should totally tell everyone."
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 3:02 PM on December 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Lots of organisations have policies about giving, and receiving

Such policies can’t enter into it when no gift is given or received, though the world is doubtless better off with the money they might have spent on a useless business gift going to a worthy charity instead.

They haven’t done anything for you, so thanking them isn’t really necessary. On the other hand, if you approve of the charity*, acknowledging the gesture would be friendly; said acknowledgment need not actually thank them ("I noticed you donated in my name; aren’t they a worthy cause?”), though you should probably avoid language that could appear passive-agressive.

*I don’t suppose Mike Pence writes thank you notes when people donate to Planned Parenthood in his name
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 4:34 PM on December 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I always assumed with the type of donation:
-The business does it because it is pretty non offensive to anyone.
-The business writes off the donation ad a business expense, not charitable giving.
-The "honoree" of the gift will eventually get a receipt from the charity that they can use as a charitable donation for their taxes, essentially using the same gift for 2 deductions, or getting the government to subsidize your donation twice.
I could be completely off with the second decision, but who knows. I always found it ironic that people would protest [Insert opinionated politician here] by donating to [Insert controversial charity here] , thereby possibly giving them millions in personal tax deductions.

As for the proper response, I would thank them the next time you see them.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 4:39 PM on December 2, 2018

My understanding is that if you donate to charity in someone's name, you are able to claim the tax deduction, not the person whose name the donation is in; there is no double deduction.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 4:49 PM on December 2, 2018 [7 favorites]

I don't see how trying to find some ulterior, selfish motive in the gift is relevant; it feels petty, ungrateful, and unChristmasy to me and if I were you I'd avoid that line of thought. Someone did a good deed in your name. That's the gift. You don't get to grumble about how the gift isn't something you wanted or how it's not a "real" gift because it isn't a material item that you personally get to enjoy—that would be churlish.

In my own family, donations in someone's name are a common gift and are considered perfectly legitimate, because let's be honest, we all have way more stuff than we actually need and meanwhile there are people who lack things like food, shelter, and healthcare. It's a way of acknowledging how lucky and wealthy we all are in the grand scheme of things, while doing something for someone in greater need. The recipient gets to have the credit and whatever good feelings come from having done a good deed.

It's a gift. Even if you think it's a lousy gift, it's a gift. The only appropriate response is gratitude.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:29 PM on December 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

It is a gift – to the charity by the donor. For the named third party it’s not a gift good bad or otherwise. If the recipient is a charity they approve of it may be an honor, but that’s it

I don’t want to seem fighty, as I know that some people appreciate donations being made in their name and some families have traditions of donations in lieu of gifts, which is all fine and grand, but not what’s going on here. Those situations involve prior knowledge and at least tacit agreement, neither of which applies in this case.

The original question is essentially about the obligation this unasked for, unexpected attachment of their name to the donation imposes on the OP. I don’t think you can impose an obligation on a third party this way. Similarly, there is no need for the OP to give a gift or donation in return.

Being polite and acknowledging the donation can’t be wrong, but it’s not strictly required.

As a slight aside, even a direct gift only imposes an obligation if you accept it; you can refuse gifts (though to do so might be hurtful under some circumstances) and sometimes refusing gifts is the right, proper and ethical thing to do.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 6:07 PM on December 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

[Folks, please don't get further into arguing with each other; if a couple answerers disagree on a point of interpretation, fine, you've both stated your interpretation and the asker can make whatever use they want of it.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:14 PM on December 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’ve been told that the perfect present is something a person would want but is unlikely to ever get for themselves. For me donations to unknown but reputable charities fit the description pretty well.

The who-sent-it and who-signed-it and why business is obscure. I don’t think there’s enough information here to guess, other than to say it’s probably something innocent because 95% of the time it is.

With regards to a thank you if you’re into sending notes those are always good, but I think a verbal thanks would be fine. I would probably go with "I read up on _____ and they look like a great organization. Thank you for supporting them. I’m glad to have been part of that."
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:12 PM on December 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

« Older Please help me demystify this spreadsheet   |   Searching for a specific phrase in media coverage Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments