X’mas looms. Once again, migraines are the pain of the season, with ideas for memorable but wallet-friendly gifts fast running dry.
Setting aside the run-of-mill novelties and face-giving gifts that make everybody stifle yawns instead of cracking big silly grins, why not go for something genuinely meaningful?
So we would like again to appeal to one and all – consider a donation, whether directly or in your intended gift recipient’s name, to a worthwhile cause, locally or overseas. Every bit counts – it’s not too much to do, and we can all take responsibility and do our part instead of waiting on miracles.
To be sure, there are more worthy causes than can be mentioned, but do remember to do your homework, as this article cautions. In other words, don’t be naive and take everything at face value! (for further examples: Flag day: Read the small-print before you give, the grand daddy of Singapore charity scandals: NKF, the UK bank charity trust fund scandal)
This story was printed from TODAYonline
Friday • December 14, 2007
— NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
Shopping has become virtuous, especially during Christmas.
Buy a “Better World” scarf at American Eagle Outfitters and US$10 ($14.50) of the US$19.95 price will go to one of three charities. Buy or lease a BMW this month and participating dealers say they will give US$25 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Consumers can benefit many charities with their purchases. Or can they?
Increasingly, non-profit experts are questioning one of the fastest-growing sectors of giving — the practice of building a donation into the purchase of everything from fine jewellery to feminine products.
They point out that such giving is unregulated and, in most cases, unaccountable — and no one knows who is claiming a tax deduction for it.
“It is virtuousness as a marketing gimmick run amok,” said Ms Lucy Bernholz, founder and president of Blueprint Research and Design, a consulting firm for non-profit organisations, who has coined the term “embedded giving” to describe the phenomenon. “The potential for it to be a scam is huge.”
Many charities and their corporate partners are unwilling to discuss the specifics of their programmes, declining to answer questions about how much is raised and even where the money goes.
Sometimes, charities do not know they are supposed to be receiving donations. Mr John Donoghue, senior vice-president of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), was disconcerted to learn his organisation was among the charities named as beneficiaries of items purchased from Barneys New York’s “Have a Green Holiday” catalogue.
“Unfortunately, just like Barneys shoppers, we’re in the dark as to how or if Barneys and the manufacturers will fulfill their commitment to donate a portion of the proceeds from these products to the WWF,” Mr Donoghue said.
The start of embedded giving can be traced to the early ’80s, when American Express raised money for restoring the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island by donating one penny for every purchase charged to its credit cards, raising US$1.7 million.
Experts say companies and charities have embraced it wholeheartedly ever since. Many charities believe embedded giving makes it easier for people to donate because the transactions occur as they go about their daily business. Some worry this could eat into more direct contributions.
Mr Donoghue said the benefits could reach beyond money. “For us to have 100,000 cool girls walking around wearing panda-branded T-shirts that have appeared in a circular that goes to 50 million people and is paid for by a corporate partner has a communications benefit we could never afford on our own,” he said.
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