Many holiday gifts wind up buried in closets and forgotten. At a time when fear of joblessness and the reality of smaller paychecks are making people careful about how they spend each dollar, many socially conscious holiday shoppers are searching for ways to give with a purpose.
Purchasing gifts from retailers who give back a percentage of the sale to community or charitable causes is one way to give with a purpose. Focus on the Family, a faith-based non-profit organization, recently kicked off Rising Voice. It’s a campaign aimed at encouraging young adults who want to make a difference in the world to shop at socially responsible retailers.
The featured retailers at Rising Voice either give a portion of their profits to those in need or sell items that are made by vulnerable people. Protecting girls from being kidnapped and sold into the sex trade is just one of the causes that a number of these socially aware retailers pursue.
“We have the opportunity to preserve the innocence and human dignity of a child in need through a simple monetary donation,” said Dawn McBane, who heads Rising Voice. “I can think of no better gift to give this Christmas season.”
Slightly more than half (51 percent) of those surveyed in a World Vision poll said they are open to giving a charitable gift as a holiday present. According to findings from an American Red Cross national survey, nearly three out of four people plan to give more or about the same to charity as they did last year.
This willingness to give charitable gifts, in lieu of less appreciated presents, suggests that the idea of purposeful giving is catching on. The support of charities during this holiday season comes at a time when a vast majority of Americans report that their personal finances are the same or worse than last year.
World Vision, a faith-based international relief organization, offers a catalog in which people could purchase a gift in the name of a friend or business associate for an overseas family in need. The most popular gift is a goat, which costs $75. In addition to providing milk and cheese to poor families, it also provides a means to earn income from the sale of dairy products and offspring of the goat. Other popular catalog gifts include two chickens ($25), hundreds of dollars worth of medicine ($35) and school fees for one child ($32).
Unfortunately, scam artists posing as legitimate charity organizations are trying to take advantage of generous gift givers. Don’t open your wallet just because someone asks for a donation, say fraud experts at the Federal Trade Commission. Ask charities for written information about the organization and its programs, as well as an explanation as to how much of your contribution goes to the cause and how much for fundraising efforts.
One of the most popular charity scams, according to the FTC, involves organizations claiming to support the troops and families of active-duty military service members—a cause that people respond to generously.
“Recognize that the words veterans or military families in an organization’s name don’t necessarily mean that veterans or the families of active-duty personnel will benefit from the money you are donating,” the agency stated. “The U.S. Department of Defense doesn’t endorse any charity, but recommends this source of information about military relief societies: www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil.”
The agency recommends donating to charities with a track record and a history. Experts warn that some phony charities use names, seals and logos that look or sound like those of respected, legitimate organizations. Some of the warning signs of a scam include high-pressure pitches, a request for cash and the use of couriers to collect donations.
With those warnings in mind, consider giving a purposeful gift this holiday season.
FTC-recommended sites to help you research a charity before opening your wallet