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Everyone's talking about virtual gifts. What are they?

Virtual gifts are the hottest new trend in charity fundraising offices. It seems like everyone's talking about them. But if you're not quite sure what this all means, this article is for you. Read on...

What are virtual gifts?

a selection of colourful presents and gifts

Traditionally, we give physical gifts to our loved ones on special occasions. It might be a box of chocolates to eat, a toy to play with, a bike to ride, etc... In other words, the gift recipient is able to interact directly with the gift and benefit from it.

A virtual gift is a little bit different. With a virtual gift, the person who receives the gift is not necessarily the person who benefits directly from it. For example, it has become increasingly popular for people to donate their birthdays to charity. It works like this:

  1. The birthday boy/girl asks for donations to a specific cause instead of receiving birthday presents.
  2. Their friends and family donate the amount to charity that they would have spent on a birthday gift.
  3. The person (or animal) who directly benefits from the gift is someone who is supported by the charity.
  4. The birthday boy/girl receives the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing they've helped to make the world a better place.

Charities have identified that virtual gifts are becoming increasingly more popular, and you may have noticed that many of them now "sell" virtual gifts through their online shops. The gift-giver pays for a service provided by the charity (eg. purchasing medical supplies, which is treated by the charity as a donation towards healthcare) and then they usually receive some sort of e-certificate or acknowledgement that they can pass on to their loved one.

What's so great about virtual gifts?

Could novelty socks become a thing of the past now that virtual gifts are becoming more popular?

Everyone's a winner with virtual gifts.

The charity receives money, which they can use to change the world.

The charity beneficiary receives shelter for the night, medical treatment, free education, or whatever amazing thing it is that the charity does.

The gift giver can see exactly how their money will be spent by the charity, and choose something at a price that suits them. There's no need for last-minute panic buying because a virtual gift can be bought online at any time.

The gift recipient doesn't receive any unwanted physical gifts ("oh goody, another pair of novelty socks!") and feels good about supporting a cause that they care about.

Do you want to set up a virtual gifts programme for your charity?

Visual fundraising is the perfect solution for your virtual gifts programme. Invite supporters to make a donation to your cause and they'll be able to see a visual representation of their support, as well as leaving a message to a loved one on a virtual item of their choice.

Charity pages

Charities can create their own visual fundraising pages to ask for gifts for themselves. For example, perhaps your charity is inundated with chocolate eggs every Easter from well-meaning supporters? An ideal solution would be to ask for virtual Easter eggs instead. This means that your donors can choose a virtual egg on a visual fundraising page and donate the money they would have spent, allowing you spend it wherever the need is greatest.

Individual pages

Alternatively, charities can encourage their supporters to create their own pages to ask for virtual gifts for themselves. For example, if your supporter wants to request donations to charity for their birthday (or Christmas, wedding, anniversary, etc), they could set up their own page where donations are sent directly to the charity. Each person who would usually buy a gift for that person would then be invited to donate, leave a message, and reveal a virtual item on the page to create a unique picture.

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