What is an Alternative Gift Fair?

The Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair is a fun way to bypass the annual stress of holiday shopping and accumulation of “stuff” while honoring friends and relatives with donations to causes that fit their values.

What’s more, the Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair provides critical support for a diverse collection of community organizations whose work has local, national, and international reach.

Ok, but what is an “Alternative Gift”?

Alternative gifts prioritize meaning over materials, in lieu of spending money on items which your friends and family may not need.  So instead of a wrapped package of “stuff,” you will have a card which states something like “Seasons’ Greetings! In your honor, I have donated 3 children’s books to XYZ organization’s library.”  Gifts in the past have ranged from $5 to give a compact fluorescent light bulb to a local, rural household; $10 for a week of school, clothing and two meals a day for an orphan in Zambia; to $100 for a “Golden Opportunity” scholarship fund to help students remain successful in area schools.

How does the gift fair work?  What do I do there?

2020’s Fair looked a little different. Due to COVID-19 we chose to move the event entirely online. This website served as the home of the event, where you were able to view all of the participating organizations, click on their links to connect with representatives, and see all of the fun and entertaining ways they came up with to talk about their work! Each organization did something a little different, and the IAGF survived 2020!

In 2021, the IAGF will be in-person AND online! Visitors will once again be able to walk around a large space to talk with and learn about the work of dozens of local community organizations. Gifts can be made to nonprofits individually by check, credit card, or online. This year we will also have a central gift station set up where donors can make online gifts or give checks more anonymously.

Each organization will have a “gift card insert” that donors can take with them, print out, or email to friends and loved ones letting them know that a gift has been made in their honor (gift cards can also be mailed to donors if technology is a barrier). On the day of the event there will be full instructions on the website, and volunteers standing by to help!

We learned about the concept of an Alternative Gift Fair from the New Dream (formerly known as the Center for a New American Dream). Here are a couple of handy webinars that the New Dream has offered:

2013 WEBINAR: How to Organize an Alternative Gift Fair

2018 WEBINAR: Organizing an Alternative Gift Fair – FAQs