Charity donation as a Christmas gift- y/n?

It’s that time of year again and I’ve got a good number of close friends and family I need to buy gifts for.

While I could go out and get them each something that would be nice and/ or meaningful, I’m considering making donations in their names to various organizations instead- then presenting them with a printed certificate showing the donation.

Is this tacky? I figure that while my friend might enjoy the bath products I get them at Lush, it’d be neat to spend that money funding a program through Kiva or buying school books for a young girl somewhere in Africa. Plus, my gift might draw the receiver’s attention to that charity.

So, what are your thoughts? Tacky? Good? Bad?

I tend to think that donating in someone else’s name is a wonderful gift, IF that has meaning to the person. I have done it before, and I will do it again for those folks in my life who would themselves donate to causes for things like cancer, or animal rescue shelters or the like.

However, donating in someone else’s name because YOU want them to be interested in a cause does strike me as being tacky. To bring up the Simpsons example, it’s like giving someone a bowling ball because you like bowling, even though it has no meaning for them.

This is not to say that your heart isn’t in the right place. But if you’re going to give a Christmas gift, it should be something that has meaning to the recipient. Pick a different time and method of bringing your favored charities to the attention of your friends and family.

I don’t mind it, but this guy really objects to it.


I like the idea, but I think you’re going about it wrong. You ask people to give to charity instead of giving you something. It means they have to look into the charity themselves, and since they’re already making a donation it’s very easy to add a bit to it. Also, it avoids any idealism conflict, they don’t end up supporting a cause they disagree with, even by proxy.

I’m doing this this year, actually. I’ve had a good year, I don’t need anything, and want for very little, so I’m asking people to give to their local food pantries for me.

From the gift recipient’s side…

I tend to actually ask for donations to made to children’s charities as gifts, when some asks what they can get me for a gift.

Several reasons for this:

  1. I have pretty much everything I need and want
  2. things I do want/need tend to be highly specific, hard to find, and not very “gifty” - a set of new tips for my aztec air brush, a matched set of vacuum tubes, authentic knob from a 1939 Philco Radio, etc…
  3. Asking for donations as xmas presents helps me deal with “over indulgance guilt”
  4. It greener, less or no wrapping paper, and no “world’s greatest dumb-ass” cups to get rid of.

It’s a silly mechanism, but it makes a lot more sense to give to people that actually need stuff than the usual swapping back and forth of junk we don’t need.

And while I totally agree with this in theory, I can assure you that when I tell them to make donations in my name to someone, they will inevitably just brush it off that I’m being silly and send me a picture frame/ gift card/ sweater. This is particularly the case with my family and I think it has less to do with a lack of altruism and more to do with just growing up in a different time.

I think it’s a fine idea. But it can feel a wee bit hollow to the recipient at the moment of opening what they believe will be a present. Why not attach it to some cute bit of fluff that does have some meaning to the person? I often find cute inexpensive trinkets at places like Think Geek or Retro Planet.

I agree with Asimovian, that it’s better if it’s something that is personally meaningful to that person, like the shelter they adopted their cat from or some such. For a donation to a cause that you’ve never really heard them talk about, then that’s still a nice gesture but it’s not really any more personal then a mug with some penguins on it.

I wouldn’t really call a charity donation a gift, though, it’s something nice you do in lieu of a gift. It’s more like a greeting card with an added note – “I was thinking of you when I made this donation.” Which is fine, sometimes warm thoughts are all you need. But sometimes and actual gift is called for, and personally if I felt the situation called for more than a card and a nice note then I’d be cautious about doing a donation as a gift. YMMV, you know your friends and family.

For what it’s worth, I did this last year, and was REALLY unsure about how it would go over. People loved it.

I think it depends on the recipient. In my case, it was all for people who I didn’t know well enough to get them an inexpensive but meaningful small gift, but who have WAY more money than I do, so it’s not like I could get them something really impressive either.

Now that you mention it, I think I’ll go ahead and do it for this year. Thanks for the reminder!

I’d be tickled if my family gave money or food/supplies to my or their local animal or homeless shelter, or donated to Project Heifer. I would be less pleased if they gave to some charity I thought had a good goal but I’d never heard of because they thought it was something I should be aware of/interested in. I’d be outright pissed if they made a donation to PETA or Right To Life or some other group I loathe.

But that violates etiquette in that it assumes you will be receiving gifts. If someone asks for a list, name it but otherwise you shouldn’t demand anything.

And yes, a donation in lieu of a gift is perfectly fine–I sometimes give a larger gift (like a Heifer water buffalo or menagerie) and then make slips to put in my Christmas cards saying the gift was giving in honor of my friends and family.

I did this one year for my mom … gave a donation to the Indiana Horse Rescue in her name. She loved it! I picked something that I knew she would want to support, and made up a little certificate/card thing for her.

It’s a great gift IF IF IF you put a lot of thought into what charity that person would most like to have a donation made to.

My mother volunteers in a literacy campaign, so I give money to the National Literacy Fund.

My sister loves to go hiking in a National Forrest, so I give to an environmental group she supports.

My neighbor is super-into the school her child attends, so I gave a contribution to help purchase musical instruments for the after-school program.

It has to show real thought about the individual’s values and interests.

I did that for my father, and he seemed to be deeply touched by it.

Consider buying them something charity-benefiting, like “a portion of proceeds goes to _________” or from one of these online stores that features goods made by poor people in some developing country, so they get a nice thing plus information on a worthy charity. Look for places like Product (Red) (AIDS charity focusing on the developing world and featuring well-known name brand products) or GreaterGood (different charity topics). There’s a nice shop featuring handmade products but I don’t have the URL at work. Plus then on future occasions they might be inspired to give through those sources as well.

I do like the “give to a charity” idea but it does have to match pretty closely with their ideals. As part of a Christmas present for my mother, I knit a teddy bear for the Mother Bear Project and showed it to her, plus giving her a pamphlet describing the typically orphaned children that these bears go to and how much the kids love their ‘Mother Bear’ gifts. I also asked my sister to donate to the Greater Chicago Ferret Association in my name, to help support their shelter, so she knows for certain that I would like this.

I donate to causes that are important to my loved ones, and attach a notification card to a small expensive little usable thing like a candle or bath gel. My dad gets a donation to Kairos Prison Ministry, since he works with them, Mom gets a donation to her church for their community outreach, a friend who raises goats gets a donation to Heifer International, my yoga friends get a donation to Seva Foundation, etc. My family and friends have got enough crap and enough money to buy their own crap, and everybody seems to really appreciate it.

As someone that isn’t interested in donating to charity, I’d be pretty pissed that you didn’t give the money to me.

However, if the friend is the ‘give-money-to-charity’ type, then I could see them appreciating the gift.

I’ve done it and its always been well received. I’m not a big stuff person.