For those thinking about giving a donation to a charity in lieu of a gift, Consumer Reports advises givers to ask the recipient about a charitable donation to make sure it is what the person wants. It’s also a good idea to find out what organizations the person supports.
Consumer Reports also tells givers to be wary of charitable gift cards. While charitable gift cards allow the recipient to select from an array of charities, the card can come with hidden fees that have a percentage of the money go to the group issuing the card rather than to the nonprofit.
If in doubt, Consumer Reports recommends just giving cash and suggesting that some or part of the money go toward his or her favorite charity. That way, the recipient can decide where the money should go, even if it’s into his or her own pocket.
For Christmas this year, Lori Heasty traded in cookies and petits fours for something she thought would do a little more good: donations to local charities.
Heasty, the owner of CritiCare Home Health Services, typically gives food as a thank you to the more than 50 businesses her company works with throughout the year. But this season, Heasty made the decision to send out Christmas cards that let the companies know a donation had been made instead.
“There are a lot of people having a hard time, larger organizations that just need a little extra help,” Heasty said. “Do we really need more food? Not really. We need more exercise. So that is why we decided to do it this year.”
So far, the response from Heasty’s business associates has been positive and her employees feel good.
“I feel strongly that Lawrence is an awesome place, and it’s nice to be able to give back,” Heasty said.
Heasty is one of many people throughout Lawrence who give gifts that keep on giving during the holiday season. And for the local organizations that receive them, the donations are critical.
The United Way of Douglas County is asking holiday shoppers to keep its organization in mind. They hope people will make gifts in honor of those on their shopping list that would help meet the organization’s $100,000 shortfall.
For the Douglas County Visiting Nurses, Rehabilitation and Hospice Care, end-of-year donations are an important part of their funding.
“We would have to turn people away,” marketing and development manager Sarah Randolph said.
The Lawrence Humane Society receives several thousand dollars each year from people who give donations to the nonprofit animal shelter in lieu of gifts.
“Most of the time the people who get the gift are genuinely thrilled that someone took the time to do something that is a passion of theirs,” shelter executive director Midge Grinstead said.
Megan Meyers gave donations to the local humane society in honor of her three co-workers at Pennington and Co. The recipients are all pet owners and throughout the year make sure to recycle their aluminum cans to benefit the organization.
“You get to the point where you don’t really need anything. And it’s nice to receive something that benefits something else,” Meyers said.
In the past, Rusty Shelton has given gifts of sheep, honey bees, chickens and even part of a cow. The animals don’t actually go to the person receiving the gift. Instead the donations are made through Heifer International, a global nonprofit organization that provides livestock and agricultural training in hopes of lifting families out of poverty.
Shelton’s mother started her on the path of charitable holiday giving by making donations in her children’s names to Save the Whales.
Shelton likes the Heifer International program because picking an animal is a gift that’s more than just a monetary contribution and helps provide a sustainable solution.
“It’s a gift that keeps on helping these people for years,” Shelton said.