With five young neices and nephews, I’ve been yearning to find a way to give them meaningful holiday presents (and avoid the malls). So I’m thrilled to discover, as many Americans are doing this holiday, the easy and creative option of giving charity gift cards. While many people are trimming back their holiday spending, nearly half of Americans said they are more likely to give a “charitable gift” as a holiday present, according to Harris Interactive. People are buying charity gift cards—cards redeemable as a donation towards a nonprofit—for their relatives as holiday gifts. Corporations are buying them for clients in appreciation of their business, or as employee rewards. Many of them are customizing their own gift cards or creating an e-gift card sent via email.

Here are some of the more popular nonprofit gift cards available. This is not a comprehensive list—please chime in below and add others you’ve heard about!

Local Nonprofit Gift Card
The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation launched Charity Gift Cards in 2007 to catalyze giving to local nonprofits in the greater Kansas City region. The gift cards come in different designs and price points and have been private labeled for corporate customers who have given the card to their clients and employees as holiday gifts. This year, Greater Kansas City Community Foundation has seen more interest from corporations for the private label giving cards. In light of the challenging economic times, giving “philanthropy” resonates. “Lavish corporate gifts seem hollow this year,” said Roxie Jerde, Senior Vice President of Donor & Nonprofit Relations for Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. “Plus, when businesses made a charitable contribution to the charity of their choice, the recipient, while thinking it was nice, didn’t find it personal. Since personal passion matters in philanthropy, it is a real plus when the recipient can choose the charity.”

More than $67,000 worth of the cards were sold in 2007. This year, as of October, more than $93,000 have been sold. 
The nonprofit gift card appeals to families and teachers, since it teaches kids about philanthropy. “Grandparents in particular love to buy them as stocking stuffers, as kids are so adept online, “ said Jerde. “Kids have a great time finding a charity. Plus it is fun for the grandparents to hear which nonprofits kids chose and why.” 

Network for Good
Network for Good offers the Good Card—gift cards with stored value that can be redeemed as a donation to any of more than 1.5 million charities.  Here’s Kevin Bacon talking about the Good Cards on the Today Show (at 1:04).

According to Network for Good, one woman purchased 20 of them with the family name on the card to give out to everyone on her holiday list, and several families are giving them out at parties instead of goodie bags. 

Network for Good also has deals with major retailers that are buying Good Cards as rewards for their customers. Neiman Marcus offered a Good Card for buyers at their Cartier Jewelry in-store (See site). And Kenneth Cole is giving $10 Good Cards to people who register on their site after making a purchase of $100 or more in-store or online (see site).

More than 350,000 people have received DonorsChoose.org Giving Cards. Corporate partners who purchased GivingCards for their customers include Build-A-Bear, Crate&Barrel, Google, Yahoo!, and Omaha Steaks. 

Happy shopping among these great nonprofit gift card choices! I heartily endorse this kind of shopping!

image Perla Ni, founding publisher of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, is the founder and CEO of GreatNonprofits. She is also a cofounder of Grassroots.com.