I’ve recently become a holiday statistic; or, at least, I can provide anecdotal affirmation of a holiday-giving trend. After my husband unexpectedly passed away recently, I received a few lovely flower arrangements, but the bulk of the gestures were service-oriented: the neighborhood landscapers just showed up one day to start regular maintenance on my lawn (at no charge); a troupe of boys came to rake leaves; my neighbor volunteered rides to the airport and back; my deck mysteriously swept itself; a lawyer friend-of-a-friend offered to help me with the probate court, pro-bono; my brother’s friend drove my extra car cross-country to sell it with no compensation but the price of gas. And more and more nice things are happening now that we’re officially into the holiday season.
You could certainly argue that people have generous impulses around the holiday season, or anytime tragedy strikes, but in an economy that’s still in the pits, and with unemployment around 9 percent, people’s inclination to serve is something that they can do without reaching too far into their pockets – and it’s far more meaningful to those with the lawns that need raking or the dogs that need sitting than a giant basket full of summer sausage and crackers.
Now there are numbers to back up the trend I’ve perceived. A new survey conducted by Ketchum Global Research for Liberty Mutual and the Responsibility Project delved into people’s sentiments about giving this year. And much of what you might have intuited is true. In fact, more than half of the 1,000 people surveyed are planning on some kind of “alternative gift-giving.” What this means, according to the research, is that three in four adults (74 percent) said they would volunteer their time as a gift if they thought others would value this type of responsible giving. And nearly one third of adults said they would donate money to charity rather than purchase gifts.
In fact, 81 percent of people appreciate it when people make a donation to a charity rather than buying a gift for them, and more than half say it’s more responsible.
As for actual gift giving, 40 percent of respondents felt that giving a homemade gift is better than giving a store-bought gift. And parents are more likely than adults without children to say they will make homemade gifts rather than buying them this year.
The numbers also showed, however, that 35 percent of people were giving fewer gifts because they had less money this year, and only 10 percent were spending more. But even with fewer gifts under the tree, Americans (at least those surveyed) didn’t plan to go incommunicado. Eighty-six percent still plan to send actual greeting cards in the mail, with 22 percent emailing greetings and 15 percent sending their wishes over Facebook or Twitter.
So pull out the rake or the craft box, hand write a few I.O.U.s, for babysitting or research a charity to donate to on your friends’ behalf. The name of the game this year is alternative giving. Share your creative ideas here.