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As we’re moving into the holiday season, you, as a business-owner, may be thinking about giving gifts to your clients and vendors. As a thoughtful and caring person, you might even be considering giving socially responsible gifts.

Socially responsible gifts are ones where you make a donation or contribution in someone’s name, and there is a social cause or organization that also benefits. You could buy farm animals in the name of your favorite client, save 5,000 acres of the Amazon rainforest, or simply invest in fair goods services or accessories. The idea behind these gifts is to make someone feel good, by supporting a worthy cause in their name.

This seems like a win-win-win, right? You demonstrate your regard for your client, s/he gets a gift, and a deserving organization benefits.

Where’s the surprise in that?

Well, a recent study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes found that socially responsible gifts actually only make the giver feel good. The study found that recipients tended to appreciate the socially-responsible gift less than expected. In fact, recipients felt that these kind of gifts indicated a lack of commitment or lesser interest, especially if these types of gifts were given by acquaintances rather than close friends.

The research suggests that the most meaningful gifts are those selected specifically for the recipient- based on his or her unique traits or qualities. Socially-responsible gifts sometimes felt too general or impersonal to make a lasting impression.

So when you’re looking at your holiday gift list this year, you may consider sending socially-responsible gifts only to those people who would choose this for themselves.

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