What is "Alternative Giving"?

Alternative giving or virtual giving is a form of gift giving where the donor, instead of buying a gift for the recipient, makes a donation to a charitable organization in the recipient’s name and the organization provides an "alternative gift" or "virtual gift" - usually a certificate or card - for the recipient.

As with other charitable donations, the certificate often contains an example of how the donation will be used (such as one day’s worth of food for a hungry person) or a symbolic denomination, called "ownership" or "adoption" (e.g. of an animal or a tree). Many organizations offer a wide range of denominations.

The alternative gifts themselves can bear various names, including "donation certificate" and "gift certificate". The latter term sometimes causes disappointment since the recipient of the certificate can not redeem it like a commercial gift certificate.

This form of giving is often employed to realize a simple living lifestyle as an alternative to consumerism and to mitigate the Effects of Christmas on the environment.

Alternative giving fairs

Sometimes several charitable organizations gather in a fair or "holiday fair" to attract donors by providing them a wider selection of choices.


The idea has been promoted by a number of charities such as Heifer Project. For more organizations, see Alternative Giving Organizations.

Other uses of the term

“Virtual giving” is also used for any giving that the donor can do from his or her computer at home. This applies especially to “virtual volunteering”[1], [2])

The content of this page has been adapted from the Wikipedia article Alternative giving.

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