Gifts – make them meaningful and beneficial to others

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

How ‘virtuous’ are these gifts?

Friday • December 14, 2007


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.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.


3 responses to “Gifts – make them meaningful and beneficial to others

  1. I don’t buy into these silly gimmicks that some brands do, like the Breast Cancer promotions with Estee Lauder and this other tie-in with McShit. Sure, they say they’ll give $1 for every lipstick sold, but what they don’t tell you is they also make $20 profit on that lipstick.

    Better for the companies to make an outright promotion (not tied to sales) to demonstrate charity.

    If I want to donate, I’d rather donate directly to the charity as I know where 100% of my donation goes to. Besides, can claim tax relief lah 😛

  2. completely agree with you. instead of wasting money on useless or pompous gifts ppl should start considering doing things as mentioned by you. nice!

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  3. Eveline,
    Yah loh.

    And FIVE grand cents from every McShit Happy Meal sold going to their resident clown’s “Children’s Charity”. Less than 0.1% of the money paid for a Happy Meal… really makes up for the cholestrol deposits made on all those Happy Meal eaters. 😛