The Gift Card that (Literally) Keeps on Giving: TisBest

TisBest gift card with Earth Hands imageSo, I got the inevitable question from my wife this morning: “What do you want for Christmas?” My inevitable answer: “I don’t know.” As this game plays out over the next few weeks, my answers will change: “nothing” is next, something completey unsexy but totally useful will follow (she hates those), and, finally, I’ll say “Why not just make a donation in my name.”

But, I might mix it up this year: “How about a TisBest gift card?”

I heard about these cards just over a week ago, and love the concept: a gift card for charitable donations. According to their press materials, TisBest is

…a Seattle-based company that offers tax-deductible charity gift cards online in amounts from $10 to $5,000. Charity gift card recipients then choose to donate the funds on their gift card to one of 250 carefully selected charities organized into categories as diverse as: the environment, health, children, education, arts and culture and women’s issues.

Founder Erik Marks saw the concept of charitable gift cards as a means of countering his perception that “holiday giving has become an expensive, wasteful and unsatisfying tradition.” The company also sees its product (which offers both online and 100% recycled plastic cards) as addressing much of the wastes associated with the holidays:

Between Thanksgiving and New Yearβ€˜s Day, Americans throw away an extra five million tons of waste, from wrapping paper to greeting cards and shopping bags…If every American gave one TisBest card rather than a wrapped gift, we would save enough paper to cover 15,000 football fields, and save 38,000 miles of ribbon- enough ribbon to tie a bow around the entire earth.

Of course, the idea isn’t without its critics: writer Jan Anderson labels Tisbest and other charitable gift card companies and non-profits as participants in “..another new scheme that benefits PayPal, credit card companies, and other businesses to ‘skim some off the top’ of your holiday giving…” On one level, she’s right: why not make a donation directly in the name of a loved one?Β  At the same time, though, I think this concept has merit: they provide us with a way to give recipients a choice about where their donation will go. I know that, while I appreciate any gift I receive, there are organizations that I’d rather not support in any manner, even when the money’s coming out of someone else’s pocket. For the record, TisBest cards take a $3.95 processing fee from each donation (regardless of its size), and three percent goes to the credit card companies. If you want more information, take a look at the company’s profile on the Washington Secretary of State’s office, and TisBest’s own FAQ.

I think this is a great option for those who’d like to avoid the more crassly materialistic elements of the holidays (which definitely take their environmental toll), and also want to let recipients decide the non-profit organizations, and causes, most dear to their hearts. For us greenies, TisBest offers the following environmental charity options:

Image Credit: TisBest

  1. Erik Marks


    You do a wonderful job of describing what TisBest is all about. I have nothing add other than to say, thank you for sharing this idea with your readers! Our tagline is “Give a Better World” and if more people ask for a Charity Gift Card this season and donate to their favorite charity, a Better World is exactly what we will all share.

    Erik Marks
    Executive Director of TisBest Philanthropy

  2. Robert Stockham

    Thanks for writing about this idea! I LOVE it. I often give donations at the holidays, and this is a way to get the recipient involved. They can feel like they are doing something and the gift to them really becomes more of a gift FROM them. I hate all the waste created at the holidays, and this is a great way to reduce that!

  3. Global Patriot

    The perfect gift, not just for those who have everything, but also for those of us who don’t need much, would rather pick out the few things we do need, and prefer to share with others as opposed to accumulating ever more ‘stuff’.

  4. Adam Taylor

    I don’t know if TisBest’s policy has changed, but according to their website’s FAQ page, they only charge $1.95 as a transaction fee plus 3% goes to the credit card company. I am surprised that Erik Marks did not point this out, though, which makes me wonder if I’m missing some small print somewhere.

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