Christmas presents that benefit good causes
If you’re wondering what to give your difficult-to-buy-for brother this Christmas, what about a bucket of fish? The Dunedin Wildlife Hospital is the latest charity to offer donations as gift ideas – supporters can give, on behalf of someone else, items ranging from the fish for $10, a penguin bandage for $20, right through to shark-bite surgery for a penguin for $500.
It’s a common theme throughout the charitable sector at this time of year. Oxfam, Tearfund and World Vision are among those also promoting charitable gifts – a goat, immunisations, a chicken or money for girls’ education are some of the options.
Dunedin Wildlife Hospital chair Steve Walker said there seemed to be more demand for environmentally friendly, ethical gifts and it was more effective than seeking cash donations.
‘‘We have so many great stories to tell at the hospital so this was a great way of taking those stories and packaging them into the gifts we’ve got. A bucket of fish is certainly a unique gift to receive this Christmas.
‘‘So many gifts have no meaning and come with so much waste and packaging and more often than not are thrown away or never used again. It’s an opportunity with these gifts to buy something that makes a real impact.’’
He said efforts would be made to use the money for the purpose the gift-giver intended.
‘‘What we’re probably going to try to do is make sure we can tag it as much as we can. What we might do early in the new year with the money that comes in is actually post stories, showing us feeding fish to the penguins with a thank you message.
‘‘We’ll endeavour where we can to tie it as accurately as possible to the six things highlighted there. What we can say is all the money we receive goes into the hospital operation.’’
Jessica Wilson, head of research at Consumer NZ, said it was an issue for all the charities selling charitable gifts.
Sometimes the money might be used for the purpose the gift-giver intended, but other times it would be used for other work.
‘‘As Christian World Service pointed it out, sometimes that flexibility matters: ‘Getting a goat that you don’t know how to look after or which you cannot feed could create more problems – or end up as goat curry’.’’
Sandra Smith, a senior lecturer in the University of Auckland graduate school of management, said charitable gifts were a way to make the work of a charity more tangible.
‘‘This is a very busy market in its own right. In order to attract people’s dollars into the charity market, you have to overcome people’s general mistrust of ‘where does my charity dollar go’. Having something like a chicken or a goat
helps people to imagine more clearly how they’re going to help a person or community.’’
Her colleague, Mike Lee, of the Business School marketing department, said it was a way to combat ‘‘donor remorse’’.
‘‘People regret giving some of their money away to a charity that doesn’t do what they had hoped they would do with their donation. This explains why it is important for donors to know exactly how their money is being spent, hence the popularity of highly tangible – albeit not as effective – charity presents, such as goats.
‘‘Even though the money may be better spent if pooled into establishing some infrastructure or bulk funding of large scale improvements, a ‘goat’ is very specific and concrete, so the donor knows exactly what their money is supposed to be used for.’’
Wilson said people could achieve the same impact for a charity by giving a cash donation.
‘‘So many gifts have no meaning and come with so much waste and packaging and more often than not are thrown away or never used again.’’ Dunedin Wildlife Hospital chair Steve Walker
A fan of yellow-eyed penguins might appreciate the chance to throw a bucket of fish their way.