The Best and Worst of Gift Giving


Written By: Marlene Mulligan, Design & Development

We’ve all had the experience of receiving less than awesome gifts whether at Christmas or some other time. Maybe right at this moment you are dreading your mother-in-law asking where you’ve hung the Harry Potter themed print they gave you last year or why you never wear the homemade hat and mitts grandma made you. And what are you going to say? What did you do with those things anyway?

Sure there are bad gift givers out there, but I propose there are also bad gift receivers. Today, I propose that receivers (i.e. charities) are the ones in charge of good vs bad gift giving scenario, not the givers (i.e. donors).

Think for a minute about one of the best gifts you’ve ever gotten. Was it that fancy-schmansy espresso maker you’d been coveting for months? Or perhaps it was a beautiful piece of jewelry you never expected. Tickets to see your favourite hockey team on home ice?

Whatever the gift, the key element that made it so great was that it is meaningful to you. And so it stands to reason that whoever gave it to you must know what is most meaningful to you.

And so with my fundraising hat on I can’t help but wonder:

  • Are we honest with donors about what is most meaningful to our charity? Do we let them know what kind of gifts would make us dance for joy?
  • Do we spend enough ‘time’ with donors so that it would even possible for them to get to know us? And by time I mean any communication from one on one and speaking at events to newsletters and social media.
  • Are we consistent when we talk about the things that are most important to us? Or is that a moving target?

Whether you are dealing with a ‘good’ gift giver or a ‘bad’ gift giver, you can be pretty certain that ultimately that person hopes their gift will be put to good use. Besides, if we accept ‘bad’ gifts, aren’t we the ones to blame when we get the same bad gift again next year? And when we receive that less than awesome gift, instead of saying ‘Thanks” with our outside voice and “what am I going to do with this” with our inside voice, how about saying something like:

“Thank you so much. Unfortunately, I can’t use this, but I would be happy to help you find a good home for it.”

And then do so. Pay it forward. Isn’t that what building community really looks like?

Wishing you the best of the holiday season.

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