With thousands of gifts in stores and on the Internet to choose from, how do you decide where to spend your budget? What gifts will be most meaningful to the people you know? Should you really buy another coffee mug or calendar for your co-worker?
In preparation for the upcoming holiday season, my wife and I started gift shopping this past weekend. While shopping, we ran into a friend who told us about a local homeless shelter that is raising money to build a safe playground for children visiting or staying there.
While looking at various photos of the current, dangerous playground, I had a moment of clarity and realized that my wife and I typically dedicate most of our gift budget to people whose needs are met in abundance. Most of the "gifts" purchased for our adult family and friends are not really gifts at all; they're more like tokens in a complex exchange system filled with obligation and rules.
This realization is changing the way that we do gifting this year. Little will change with what we give to the kids, but we are going to proactively discourage obligatory and unnecessary overspending with our family and friends. We will still have fun spending time together, and the money that we save by this change will be focused toward meeting the needs of people less fortunate.
The ideas and principles below are applicable to both personal and business holiday spending. Consider some of the following ideas to help free up your holiday budgets - and have extra money available for charitable giving this year.
- Michael DeHaven, CareerBuilder.com
Whether at a private or corporate party, a white elephant gift exchange is always fun. With this kind of exchange, each guest is asked to bring an undesirable gift. The gift could be something you find around the house or a product severely discounted because nobody wants to buy it. The key is that it should not be expensive.
Each person who brings a gift puts his or her name in a hat. After all the gifts are piled together, the host starts the fun by selecting a name from the hat. The selected person picks a gift and opens it. After showing the gift to everyone, that person then selects another name from the hat. Subsequent people may either steal an already opened gift or pick a wrapped gift from the pile.
When someone's gift is stolen, he or she also has the option to pick either an opened gift (obviously, it cannot be the gift just stolen from them) or a wrapped gift from the pile. This process proceeds until the stealing and opening is complete. It is usually wise to set a rule limiting the number of times a gift may be stolen (two or three usually works well).
This game follows the same rules and structure as the White Elephant Exchange, except that everyone who wishes to play brings a desirable gift within a specified value range. It is wise to keep your price range relatively low. Having a low price range encourages greater creativity and participation.
Both the White Elephant and Mad Santa Exchanges work well in office environments. They are especially good because participation is optional, but the game is fun for all to watch.
In the age of email, instant messages, and cell phones, it is abnormal for many people to receive a handwritten letter. A sincere, handwritten letter can be an amazing gift for family, friends, and co-workers. Because letter writing has become less common in our culture, it may take a little work to write a great letter.
However, the recipient will surely appreciate a letter from the heart. Note: It may be easier to draft your letter on the computer and handwrite the final version.
Rather than giving a physical gift, give your time. Take a co-worker, employee, friend or family member out for a cup of coffee, or invite them to your home to cook dinner together and play board games. The point is to find a meaningful way to invest time in your relationships, whether personal or professional.
Building stronger relationships will surely have a long-term impact. Most people understand the value of time in our busy lives and will appreciate your gift of time.
Office holiday parties can be very expensive, and not everyone enjoys an extravagant office soiree. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many corporations reduced or cancelled their office parties. They instead shifted budgets toward relief efforts, a move supported by most employees.
Before spending your entire holiday budget on a lavish party, survey your staff and find out where they would like the money to go. If given the option, many people will forgo the fancy social occasion and instead vote to donate the saved money to relevant charities.
Whether you choose to make a change in your gift giving habits personally or corporately, take steps to make your charitable gifts relevant. It is not a good idea to blindly pick a charity. The below list contains ten unique ideas that may be of interest to you.
Because the options are virtually unlimited, it is wise to search for organizations with which you share a specific passion. This holiday season, search for real needs and give gifts that make a difference.
If you are looking for ways your company can give back, there are many areas where you can look for the perfect fit. Discuss these opportunities, and others, with your employees and you can find the perfect solution for your giving needs.
One of the most common ways for companies to be philanthropic is to work with established charitable organizations. However, selecting the right charitable organization to fit with the culture of your company is often difficult.
Phrases like social responsibility, giving back to the community, and corporate philanthropy are showing up everywhere in recent years. Does sincere philanthropy really have a place in American business?