Christmas gift ideas 2015: Bad news, no one likes getting charity donations and socially responsible gifts for Christmas

Clara Guibourg
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This had better be a £25 coffee hamper (Source: Getty)

Did you get sick of consumer madness and opt to give your friends a donation to charity instead this year?

Choosing to give a charity donation might seem like a great antidote to consumer mania - not least because you avoid having to battle it out with other frenzied last-minute shoppers over the final pair of Star Wars socks on Oxford Street.

But watch out: your friend might not see it that way at all.

In fact, what you saw as a thoughtful and kind-hearted gift might even be unpopular enough to damage your friendship.

"Socially responsible gifts" are much less appreciated than givers expect them to be, researchers at the University of Southern California have found. Writing in the journal Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, lead author Lisa Cavanaugh said:

Socially responsible gifts clearly have the potential to reflect a virtuous identity for the giver. This very quality, however, may not be valued by recipients as much as givers think.

Gifts supporting a worthy cause are increasingly popular, championed by charitable organisations including Oxfam and Just Give.

The Californian researchers asked 151 people to choose between making a £25 donation to charity for a friend, or presenting them with a £25 coffee hamper, and asked "giver" and "recipient" alike to rate the present for things like thoughtfulness and offensiveness.

Givers expected to receive a high thoughtfulness score of 74 per cent, but in reality were rated no higher than 48 per cent. Overall, recipients were up to 27 per cent less appreciative than their hapless friends had expected them to be.

In short: givers wildly overestimated how much a friend would enjoy a donation, and worryingly, underestimated how offended they would be by it.

In such instances, a recipient may perceived a gift as saying more about the giver than about the giver’s commitment to the relationship, causing perceived relationship commitment to suffer.

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