Americans are perhaps the
most charitable group of people on Earth. In 2006,
U.S. charitable giving hit $295.02 billion, according
to a report by Giving USA Foundation. (OK, that
total included the $1.9 billion Warren Buffett
gave as part of his 20-year commitment to various
charities.) With the gift card growing to be a
most popular gift to give, it figures that charitable
giving and gift cards would meet and marry.
Two types of cards have emerged:
One operates like a regular gift card that enables
the recipient to buy a gift as well as donate
to charity; the other is a prepaid card purchased
by a donor and given as a gift to a recipient,
who can then use that card to donate to the charity
of his or her choice.
The GiveCard, from Givingtreelife.com, is a MasterCard-branded gift card. Here's how it works: You buy a $50 gift card and give it to your grandson. He donates 10 percent of the card money to a charity and spends the rest on a gift for himself.
"When people give a gift, they want it to have some meaning. Last Christmas, I was shopping for presents and I would typically buy store-based gift cards, like for my mother," says GiveCard founder Clayton "Nick" Nicholas. "I wondered whether there was a more flexible card I could buy her, something that would have more meaning. Having worked with nonprofits before, I understood what their needs were. I didn't think there was any card that had social value. The concept came from understanding the needs of nonprofits and we put it with this new prepaid concept."
GiveCard, based in Nashville, Tenn., uses the Guidestar database of nonprofits, which is a universe of 1.5 million charities, so recipients have plenty of choices.
Learning to share
"Our fundamental business model is about sharing,"
says Nicholas. "What we teach our kids at a young
age is to share. When you give the GiveCard, you're
giving them a gift, but teaching them how to help
out society, too."
The GiveCard can be used to get cash from an ATM, but it will cost $1.50 per withdrawal, and checking the balance at an ATM will add another $0.50. Cardholders can check their balances for free online or by calling the toll-free number for Givingtreelife.com.
A similar gift card is available from Giveline.com, an online store that donates between 7 percent and 33 percent of the cost of the merchandise to a charity of the customer's choice. The average donation is 16 percent. Giveline.com has been in business since 2005.
The Giveline.com gift card can be
loaded with amounts from $5 to $500 and can be
purchased online. A plastic card can be sent to
the recipient via the U.S. mail or an e-card can
be e-mailed. The recipient can choose products
in categories such as entertainment, electronics,
home and travel. Cardholders can select an organization
to donate to from a list of more than 10,000 nonprofits.