'Ethical Gifts' Might Offend Recipients

Finally science has quantified that feeling of disappointment when you open up an envelope and Christmas card to find that a donation to a charity has been made in your name instead of cash or a gift card.

The Association for Consumer Research conducted a study that found so-called “ethical gifts” to be either an adequate or awful present, depending on the giver.

From a press release:

In the study, the researchers told more than 250 women, all wives and mothers, that they were to receive one of two gifts of equal monetary value: A spa basket with soaps and body creams, or a donation in their name to Oxfam.

When told that the spa basket came from either their husband or child, the women had an equally positive response to the gift regardless of who gave it.

When told that they were to receive the Oxfam donation, women appreciated the gesture much less when it came from their spouse, compared to their child.

“The nature of the relationship between giver and recipient is going to determine whether or not giving these gifts are a good idea,” Cavanaugh says. “When a child gives the donation, mothers tend to perceive the gift as a clear sign of commitment to her. They think, ‘I must have done a good job with this kid, and that kid is a reflection on me.’ The moms see that child’s giving a donation as something to be proud of. But when it’s the spouse, the women don’t view the same donation in their name to be a sign of commitment.”

Some sample reactions from the women who were told they had received the donation from their child:

* “…I raised him to be kind and generous and always think of others.”
* “…it would make me very proud of my son for wanting to help someone and getting me involved.

Same reactions from the women who were told they’d received the donation from their husbands:

* “…I have no idea! What was he thinking???”
* “…I think if my spouse bought me this gift, it’d be a sign he does not care about me.”

Would you give a donation in someone’s name as a gift? If you have, how was it received?