Charity Gift Cards Gain Popularity for Holidays Sales of gift cards are forecast to exceed $26 billion this holiday season. One tiny, but growing type of card is the charity gift card. It is meant to address a yearning for more socially conscious giving and receiving. The funds on the card go to a charity of the recipient's choice.
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Charity Gift Cards Gain Popularity for Holidays

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Charity Gift Cards Gain Popularity for Holidays

Charity Gift Cards Gain Popularity for Holidays

Charity Gift Cards Gain Popularity for Holidays

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Sales of gift cards are forecast to exceed $26 billion this holiday season. One tiny, but growing type of card is the charity gift card. It is meant to address a yearning for more socially conscious giving and receiving. The funds on the card go to a charity of the recipient's choice.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

If you're like me, you haven't written your holiday cards yet. So you maybe interested to know that there's a new kind of gift card in the stores - the charity gift card. It is meant to address a yearning for more socially conscious giving and receiving. The funds on the card go to a charity of the recipient's choice.

From Seattle, NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN: This holiday season, Isabel Conrad(ph) plans to give charity gift cards to relatives and many of her friends. Isabel, who is 10, says her friends already have lots of toys and games, and she wants to give them something more meaningful.

Ms. ISABEL CONRAD: So I think they're going to really enjoy it.

KAUFMAN: Have you talked to any of them about this idea?

Ms. CONRAD: Yeah. They thought it was really cool. They're, like, oh, awesome. I want one of those.

KAUFMAN: What appeals to Isabel and her mother is that the person getting the gift card gets to choose where the money goes and both the giver and recipient can feel good about what they're doing.

Ms. CONRAD: Like whoever gives it to you gets the gift of giving. You get it and get the gift of giving and receiving. And the charity that you donate to gets to help people or animals or…

KAUFMAN: This year, Americans are expected to spend more than $26 billion on gift cards for merchandize at retail stores and online. Trent Stamp, president of Charity Navigator which evaluates charity, says the amount spent on charity cards will be just a miniscule fraction of that, perhaps a few million dollars. But he says charity cards are catching on.

Mr. TRENT STAMP (President, Charity Navigator): This is absolutely a brand new movement that has exploded in the last couple of years.

KAUFMAN: Stamp says it's been driven by those wanting to make a charitable gift on behalf of family or friends but who didn't want to be so presumptuous as to choose the charity. A gift card solves the problem. Several different organizations are offering them. Eric Marks, founder of a new nonprofit gift-card organization called TisBest, says the Internet has made charity cards easy to use.

Mr. ERIC MARKS (Founder, TisBest): You go to their homepage and there's a button for buy and a button for sent. You click the Buy button, and then you can choose. And we have about 30 images up here now you can choose from for the gift card. And…

KAUFMAN: The process is similar to buying just about anything else online. After receiving a charity gift, the recipient typically goes online and chooses from among the listed charities. Depending on the card provider, that number can range from about a hundred to over a million. Eric Marks says the 200 plus choices on tisbest.org ranged from Amnesty International and autism research to the Special Olympics and the YMCA.

Mr. MARKS: We are bringing new dollars into the philanthropy world, and we're bringing new people into participating, especially people who received the card who may not have thought of doing this before.

KAUFMAN: Charity gift cards come with processing and other fees. Those vary depending on the card provider. But in general, the purchase of a $50 gift card will result in a roughly $45 donation to the charity. The purchaser of the card can take the entire $50 as a tax deduction. As with all gift cards, it's important to understand exactly what you're getting, as Trent Stamp of Charity Navigators says, read the fine print.

Mr. STAMP: You need to make sure that it's not going to expire. You need to make sure there's no processing fee on top of what you already paid for the card, and you just need to make sure that, you know, that it seems right to you.

KAUFMAN: He adds that charity cards represent a nice return to what the holidays were supposed to be about.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News, Seattle.

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