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How nonprofits can best offer community support during the holidays

By Ashley Blum, Association Director of Accounting Processes at YMCA of San Francisco|5 min read|Updated Nov 22, 2023

A wreath with gift cards around the rim.

Financial hardship often takes away from the joys of the holidays. Fortunately, charitable organizations offer support where it is needed most. Turkeys and toys are nice, but a financial gift lets nonprofit organizations give community members a choice in how they spend their money during the holiday season.

Using Tremendous to send charitable disbursements around the holidays can save your organization hours of administrative work, so you can focus your efforts on providing hands-on assistance rather than wrestling with the painful logistics of manually sending money in bulk. Sending disbursements through Tremendous also gives community members an easy way to access what they often need most: money. 

People prefer money

Some people don’t eat turkey or yams. Teens probably don’t want a Lego set. And that winter jacket might be one size too small for the little boy who received it, despite the donor’s good intentions

Instead, consider offering your community members the dignity of choice in what food they put on their holiday tables and what gifts they give their loved ones. 

Giving recipients a choice in how they redeem their charitable disbursement – whether that’s in the form of a gift card to a specific retailer (like Kroger), a Venmo payout, or a Visa prepaid card – empowers recipients to get the items they need when they need them. 

We have research to support that people prefer money over gifts. We conducted a survey of 1,500 employees around the country to better understand what type of gift they prefer to receive around the holidays, and 65% reported that they prefer money. 

It stands to reason that community members, in general, would rather receive money they can spend however they want rather than a specific gift that may be less relevant to their needs. 

A financial gift is less prescriptive, and it allows your recipient to address any need that arises during the holiday season, including transportation costs, utility payments, car repair, etc.

If you’d like to give community members something that feels more closely aligned with your mission or the intended purpose of your grant money, you can choose gift cards for specific retailers.

Aldi’s or Sam’s Club gift cards for groceries, Old Navy for clothing, or Uber for transportation-oriented programs all offer community members flexibility while staying true to your mission.

Timing is everything

Giving people the choice of a variety of gift or prepaid cards is particularly useful for people who may not have the space to store bulky items at home, or the means to transport them. 

For example, the family of six that picks up a turkey, a ham, three bags of fresh produce, and side dish ingredients may not have space in their refrigerator to store those items for the week between your distribution and Thanksgiving. A single parent may not have a car to drive two generously donated bicycles back to his or her home.

Imagine giving those recipients the ability to decide when and how to purchase the items they need. 

Turkeys and hams — or whatever else they choose to eat — can be purchased the day before a big dinner with a Visa prepaid card, and bicycles can be bought online and shipped directly to their doorstep with an Amazon gift card. Giving recipients control over how they choose to redeem their charitable disbursement makes this flexibility possible. 

Low-stress event planning

We know nonprofit resources are limited. Holiday drives are an incredible community resource, but they require significant planning and coordination. 

Sending someone to buy 500 turkeys is a heavy lift (literally), and finding somewhere large enough to store 1,000 donated toys is difficult when many nonprofits have limited space.

Less time spent organizing items for distribution means more time spent on your mission – promoting your event to the community, setting up a welcoming space, and engaging with the people who attend. 

If switching over entirely from physical gifts to gift cards feels like too big of a leap, consider offering both physical and financial gifts. Pair funds with a smaller tangible item, so the gift still feels personal or festive. 

Scaling back physical gifts from bikes and turkeys to smaller gifts paired with financial assistance will streamline distribution significantly. 

A graphic showing that nonprofits can offer community members physical gift cards, digital bank transfers, or PayPal gift cards rather than physical items.

Fast, easy distribution

We understand that some organizations rely on gift cards donated in-kind to support their events due to accounting and funder requirements. 

However, if your organization collects funds and purchases gift cards on its own, Tremendous can help in a big way. 

The YMCA of San Francisco saves, on average, 3 days a month on the procurement, distribution, and reconciliation of gift cards and prepaid Visas by using Tremendous rather than manually ordering gift cards themselves.

Your staff team might be extra-lean around the holidays, which makes it difficult to send someone to the grocery store to purchase gift cards and safely store them until your event.

And then there’s the question of how they purchase the gift cards. Do you send them with a company credit card, which must be reconciled later? Do you send them with petty cash (and a big liability)? Do you ask them to pay out-of-pocket, and then reimburse them later? 

No matter which option you choose, it’s a lot of work. 

If it’s important to hand out physical cards, Tremendous lets organizations order physical prepaid Visa cards ahead of time and mails them to your specified address, so you’re ready to hand them out on the day of your event.  

This is a great option for recipients who have technological barriers that prevent them from using a digital gift card, like not having a smartphone or an email address.

Alternatively, if you have the email address handy for your recipients, our bulk uploading functionality and easy-to-use dashboard make it simple to send money digitally. 

A major benefit of this distribution method is that your recipients have access to Tremendous’ customer service. 

Did your recipient misplace their virtual Visa card? No problem! Our team is here to help. Redemption through Tremendous is secure and easy, with any personal info stored behind bank-level encryption.

Financial assistance is always a welcome relief, especially during the holiday season. Forgoing specific food or clothing items in favor of monetary assistance gives community members the flexibility to purchase what they need most. 

Published November 22, 2023

Updated November 22, 2023

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