Heifer International meets Amazon.com

An idea for a birthday or holiday gift: instead of giving some unwanted merchandise, make a charitable donation in a friend’s name. The idea – donation giving – is growing in popularity, and organizations that allow small donors to determine what charitable goods or services their donation will fund, such as Heifer International, Seva, Oxfam UK, WorldVision, Mercy Corps and Jewish National Fund, have begun to profit by it.

The drawback, of course, is that each of these non-profits primarily addresses a single cause, and neither farm animals, cataract surgery nor trees in Israel is likely to be our friends’ favourite cause. So where can we find gifts that fit the other causes that they care about? How can we know that they would welcome such a gift or discover which causes and non-profits have most resonance for them? Where can we find a non-profit that can provide a personalized greeting card to announce the gift (the importance of which is shown by the fact that Americans spend $7 billion on greeting cards each year)? And what organization can serve as a catalyst to promote donation gifts as a social norm?

Filling this need is the fundamental idea behind ImportantGifts.org, a new non-profit donation website, which launched in November. Combining the emotional satisfaction of charitable giving, the tangible quality of donation opportunities listed by non-profits such as Heifer, and the best e-commerce features, ImportantGifts.org might be described as Heifer International meets Amazon.com.

Visitors browse by cause to find donation opportunities from hundreds of non-profits, explore the wish lists and registries of their friends and of celebrities, or search by name to find their own favourites. They can do more than select an organization to support; they can choose exactly what they want to accomplish, such as protect an acre of the rainforest, fund an hour of a cancer researcher’s time, or provide books for children, drugs for AIDS patients, shelter for the homeless, or meals for the hungry. ImportantGifts rounds off its service by providing gift certificates, event calendars, and personalized, on-demand, printed greeting cards.

In short, ImportantGifts.org will do for charities what malls have done for shopping. And it will do for shopping something that shopping has rarely done for anyone: elevate our spirits and add meaning to our lives. 

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