Gift card sales were down 6% last holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. The category could clearly use a hand, and philanthropic gift cards, which are all about doing just that, may be the ticket.
Nonprofit organizations like Network for Good and TisBest Philanthropy offer cards that donate to charity in the recipient's name, or that come at preset amounts, with the recipient choosing which charity receives the money. Customers seem to like the cards for several reasons: They like the idea that their gift is doing some good, and that it's customizable as well.
It's also an appropriate gift for the recession, when people feel more strongly than ever the need to help one another.
“I believe there is too much focus on gifts of ‘stuff’ and that a donation gift is often the most appreciated and satisfying gift of all,” wrote Erik Marks, founder of TisBest, on the company's website.
The largest organization offering these cards, Network for Good, was founded in 2001 as a joint venture of Yahoo, Time Warner and Cisco Systems. Since then, it has processed more than $300 million worth of online gift donations to 50,000 charities.
How will the cards fare this year? Dollar amounts are smaller, but officials report that the number of donations has doubled.