Symbolic Giving – A Rapid Review

If there’s ever a good reason to redouble your effort in a certain area of fundraising, it’s when you hear that it’s in decline or its days are numbered. Here, we take a quick look at the future of online symbolic giving, what the data is telling us and what you can do now to take stock and review your current program. Read More →

posted on Jul 14 No comments yet

Don’t forget about design!

A great design has the power to engage, impress, and most importantly, leave a lasting impression. A symbolic gift design is no different. Think of design as a first impression. Your site may be loaded with personality and endearing qualities, but if there is no initial attraction, it may often get overlooked. Read More →

posted on Dec 07 1 comment so far

The Evolution of Symbolic Gift Giving in Finland

Finnish people from the country of Nokia are very keen on using their mobile phones. There are actually almost no landlines in the country and most people have a mobile phone equipped with the newest technologies. Finn Church Aid, which is a market leader of virtual gifts in Finland, sees a lot of opportunities within digital marketing. Read More →

posted on Dec 02 2 comments

3 Strategies to Maximize Revenue and Impact in your Symbolic Giving Campaign

For over 5 years, symbolic giving has been used by charitable organizations, focusing on gifts that commodify their mission. However, little testing has been done in regards to campaign strategy and therefore, many organizations are not optimizing the resources they invest in these programs.

For hjc, a number of questions pop up: What impact does integrating online and direct mail have on your symbolic giving campaign? Which gift card options are the most effective? How does a year-round promotional campaign have an impact on the results of your program?

While it’s true that hjc has gained several insights on questions such as those from its experience helping charities launch their symbolic giving programs over the last 5 years, there are still unanswered questions. To help us – and you – understand more, some of these past strategies were tested through a Symbolic Giving Survey sent out to hjc’s client (and non-client) list of non-profit organizations. Through this survey, hjc aimed to analyze the various marketing streams and strategies that result in the greatest revenue and impact.

As mentioned previously, hjc has been executing and perfecting symbolic giving campaigns for the largest non-profit and charity brands in Canada and internationally for close to a decade. Based on these experiences – and on the recent survey results – the company has developed three conclusions that will help organizations conduct their symbolic giving campaigns more effectively:

  1. Charities who have online programs supported through DM will make more money both online and in total.
  2. Charities who offer PDF cards will fulfill less print cards, consequently reducing printing costs.
  3. Charities that have year-round programs will not only make more money in the ‘off-season’ but in the holiday period as well.

The survey results (though small in size – with approximately 15 organizations filling out the survey) can still serve as a set of examples that support the strategies that hjc currently recommends and implements.

1) Online-Offline Integration

Symbolic giving is not unique to the online environment. Many charitable online giving catalogues are integrated with an offline program. hjc has always been a firm believer in integrating online catalogues with an offline program for a greater impact. For example, hjc’s client CHF has both an online and offline catalogue for its ‘Gift That Matter’ program (

The Symbolic Giving Survey illustrated that this strategy is in fact effective because in 2009, charities surveyed with both online and DM gift catalogues not only had a higher average total revenue than those with just an online gift catalogue but also a higher online revenue.

2) PDF Gift Card Option

In addition to providing donors with the option to send e-cards and print cards when they purchase a symbolic gift, hjc suggests that organizations also provide the option to print out a personalized PDF card that donors can give to recipients personally. This is effective for two reasons: first, PDF cards are cost-effective because organizations do not incur printing costs, and secondly, donors prefer PDF cards over e-cards because they enjoy giving a physical card to their loved ones.

The survey results indicated that when only given the option of print card or e-card, almost 100% of donors chose print cards; however, when given the option of a PDF card, more donors chose the PDF card over the print card and the e-card.

PDF cards also serve the function of capturing last minute donors – convenience – and can increase revenue right before major holidays.

3) Year-Round Promotion

Many charitable online symbolic gift catalogues are only available, or at least only actively promoted, during the holiday season. While this is historically the time of year with the highest revenue for symbolic giving, some programs have achieved great success throughout the year.

Charity Total Online Revenue Holiday Online Revenue Non-Holiday Online Revenue Year-round program
Organization 1 $101,793 $100,531 $1,262 N
Organization 2 $874,940 $698,594 $176,346 Y

Therefore, when considering marketing activities for an online symbolic catalogue, year-round promotion should be considered and budgeted for.


hjc’s past experience and recent survey work make it clear that three simple strategies will help organizations implement a successful symbolic giving program. The recent symbolic gift survey also illustrates that there is much to learn about donor behavior and trends in emerging fields such as symbolic giving.

And while the strategies for improving symbolic gift campaigns are straightforward on paper, the successful implementation of cross-channel and year-round symbolic gift campaigns can sometimes be complicated, difficult, and time-consuming (though ultimately worth it). That’s exactly why hjc is ready to help any organization looking to launch or improve its symbolic giving – whether that’s holiday, celebration, or tribute/memory focused.

For more information on hjc’s symbolic giving work and other services, please visit

posted on Sep 08 No comments yet

Cost-Effective Online Giving: is a cost-effective, online giving portal based on the idea of alternative giving. Your organization’s needs are presented as a “gift” that donors can purchase for any gift-giving occasion. The “gift” doesn’t have to be a tangible item but can be symbolic of where the donation will go. will market and drive donors to YOU – at a fraction of the cost of developing your own website.  For more information, go to or email

posted on May 31 No comments yet