Budget Gift Solution: A Charity Gift Card

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NEW YORK (AP) — An environmental cause? A struggling arts program? Disaster relief? Inner city education? Research toward curing some disease?

The number of charities and types of good works someone might choose to support can be overwhelming, and when a donation is also a gift, it might be hard to choose what group a relative or friend would pick.

The solution might be a charity gift card.

Like retail gift cards that offer recipients a chance to choose whatever they want in certain stores or malls, charity gift cards allow people to direct your donation to the organization of their choice.

Introduced a few years ago, the concept is gaining popularity, and there is a growing list of places to purchase them online. Most offer options for sending physical cards, printing certificates or e-mailing messages to notify the recipient of their gifts.

Some, like JustGive, which offers "The GiveNow Card," and the Network for Good, which sells "Good Cards," enable donations to more than 1 million charities.

JustGive, a nonprofit whose aim is to increase charitable giving, says 97 cents from each dollar donated goes to the charity chosen. The group also adds a $5 fee to each card for production and delivery costs. Along with its cards, which were introduced this year, the site offers charity gift registries, ways to track donations and other tools for donors.

The Network for Good, whose cards are sold on its Web site, and through Charity Navigator and Six Degrees, is an online resource that links donors, volunteers and charities. About 20 percent of the donations it processes each year are made in someone else's name — a portion that spikes to about 40 percent in December. Network for Good said it is receiving about 500 orders each day for Good Cards, with the full donation going to the charity the recipient chooses, but a $5 fee added on to cover processing costs.

One of the oldest sources for such cards is CharityGiftCertificates.org, operated by The Special Kids Fund, a Lakewood, N.J.-based nonprofit that started selling them in 2004. Daniel B. Goodman, president of the fund, hopes to triple last year's $400,000 sales this season.

Card recipients can choose up to three charities from a database of about 125 organizations, Goodman said, with 10 percent plus 50 cents per card going toward paying credit card processing fees and providing support for the Special Kids Fund. "It's a double gift," Goodman said.

About 10,000 'Tis Best charity gift cards were sold in 2007, the first year the charity site existed. Founder Erik Marks said it raised about $380,000, and he aims to sell more than twice that this year on his Web site, which enables donations to about 250 nonprofits.

'Tis Best takes 3 percent of the sales to cover transaction fees and $3.95 per card to cover overhead, and unlike the others, allows donors to choose several designs or upload their own photos or logos to create custom cards. The custom cards have been popular with corporations purchasing gifts for employees or customers, Marks said.

'Tis Best also offers a way for donors to track when the cards are used, and where the donations go.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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