Last Minute Gift Idea: Charitable Donations

Have you noticed how many parents/grandparents are hard to buy for? Often they’re at a stage of life when they have everything the need and want and they aren’t interested in acquiring more.

It’s something we experience with both our sets of parents, so last week I put out a call for help on the Family CEO Facebook page about this very thing. I got some wonderful, creative suggestions: tickets to a concert or event, a photo album, wine, and even a dinner cruise.

One suggestion I especially liked and have used before is a charitable donation made in their honor. We’ve done this several times now and with good results.

Here is some of what we’ve learned:

1. Make sure the recipient is open to it. Most are, especially if they really, truly don’t want or need anything. But if you suspect that a charitable donation would be met with anything other than a warm feeling, better to skip it and figure out something else.

2. Choose a charity whose mission is a good fit with the person you’re buying for. This is not the time to give to your favorite cause; make it about them. And if you embrace that idea, choosing a charity to donate to can be a lot of fun. One of my favorite experiences of doing this was on my parents’ 40th anniversary when we made a donation to the church where they were married. And in that Facebook post I mentioned, Family CEO reader Sarah suggested the Samaritan’s Purse gift catalog, where they can choose where they want their money to go.

3. Make sure the charity will make good use of the gift. Earlier this month I blogged about Charity Navigator, which rates over 5000 charities based on their financial strength, accountability, and transparency. That’s a good place to start. They also have tools that can help you choose a charity if you don’t already have an idea. (Charity Navigator is listed on my Resources page if you ever need to find it in the future.)

Have you ever given a charitable donation as a gift? What was your experience?

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21 comments on this post.
  1. Christa:

    I would love to do charitable gifts every year for my entire family and have them do the same for me! My grandfather introduced me to the idea by requesting people donate to charities in his name, and I loved it! He was so thrilled to help others — it was the happiest I’ve ever seen him when receiving a gift. But you’re right, some people just don’t get the warm fuzzies from charitable gifts.

  2. Julie:

    Christa, isn’t it great that your grandfather was so happy when giving to others? Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. Wayne @ Young Family Finance:

    I agree that you should always make sure to check if the donation is going to be put to good use. Otherwise, it’s just easing your conscience.

  4. Bestmommy @ Mom's Online Money Makers:

    For several years we’ve donated to The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation in memory of a dear neighbor that passed away. They send a note card to his wife letting her know that we made the donation in his honor. She’s says it’s the best gift she could get because it gives her hope that there will be a cure someday so others will not have to suffer as her husband did.

  5. Julie:

    I love Charity Navigator, Wayne.

  6. Julie:

    I love that example, Bestmommy. How nice to feel like you’re contributing to finding a solution.

  7. Carla:

    Wonderful post, as always!! :) I sent a friend a GC to KIVA today as I KNEW she’d love it above & beyond anything else!

  8. Julie:

    That’s wonderful, Carla. Sounds like a special friend.

  9. Hunter - Financially Consumed:

    Great post Julie. We really do get more out of giving that receiving at this time of year. Happy Holidays!

  10. shanendoah@The Dog Ate My Wallet:

    This is what I gave my father, mother and brother this year for Christmas- I donated to a charity I knew they would support in their names.
    And then my Christmas gift from C was a donation to help someone who had just lost everything.
    I actually feel better about my Christmas gifts than I have in years.

  11. Paula @ Afford Anything:

    Haha — For my Dad’s 60th birthday (10 years ago), I made a $60 donation to a charity that helps poor people in Nepal (our home country) get eyeglasses. But his reaction was: “Why on earth did you do this?”

    (Turns out he’s concerned because he know how much corruption and siphoning there is in Nepalese charities, which don’t have the same accountability regulations as US ones do.)

    It was a good reminder about your first point — make sure the recipient is open to it, or else figure something else out.

  12. Julie:

    LOL Paula. Good to know in case I’m ever about to give to a Nepalese charity. I guess it’s harder to evaluate some giving opportunities than others.

  13. Julie:

    Same to you, Hunter. I enjoyed meeting you at FINCON. Have a wonderful holiday with your family.

  14. Julie:

    That is so wonderful. Have a joyous Christmas!

  15. Amy:

    We did this for my parents this year. We donated through the Anglican Church of Canada to the Primate’s World Development and Relief Fund to help clergy families in Northern Canada. We’re a clergy family and I knew my parents would appreciate it.

    You’re so right that at a certain age, some people have it all and are trying to simplify. I wish my MIL was this easy to shop for!

  16. Julie:

    Amy, I agree. I wish I could do my whole list like this. Thanks for sharing your example of matching a charity with your parents. Merry Christmas!

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