Charity gifts in lieu of presents


March 23, 2009|By KATE SHATZKIN

A Twitter follower asks: "How [do you] encourage friends and family to give to charity in lieu of gifts at a kid party? We're racking our brains for a polite, workable way to do this. We hear people do both when asked, which doesn't solve the issue."

I sent the question to Bill Dougherty, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota and one of the people behind Birthdays Without Pressure, a Web site (and group) that discusses how costs and expectations have gone up for children's birthday parties. (The site has ideas for simple birthday-party games and alternatives to gifts.)

Dougherty wrote: "It doesn't work well to ask people to give to a charity in lieu of gifts - not for birthday parties. Here is what seems to work: Say in the invitations, and repeat when guests arrive with gifts, that you will give presents to a children's charity. That way, when people bring gifts, they know where they are going, and they don't have to do it themselves. They get to be generous to the birthday child and to the charity simultaneously."

He had another thought: "Consider present-free parties like the Obamas do. ... Children get plenty of presents from family. ... Make the friends' party just for fun. In that case, the parent can say, "Please, no gifts, and if you decide to bring one, we'll be donating it to charity.

"If gifts arrive, say thanks and move them out of view."

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