Frequently Asked Questions

We offer a nontraditional way of giving, so take a look at our frequently asked questions and answers to learn more about us. If you don’t see your question below, let us know!

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  • What is an alternative gift?

    An alternative gift is a sustainable gift you give to others in honor of someone. It’s a nontraditional way of giving and a meaningful gift that will help someone in need. For example: Uncle George loves working in the yard. For his next birthday instead of gifting Uncle George a tie or some other traditional gift, you could plant a tree in his honor. Uncle George will receive a greeting card with an enclosed gift insert describing the gift given in his honor.

  • What is a gift insert?

    An insert (gift insert designs may be slightly different each year) is a printed description about the project for which a donation has been made in honor of someone. The insert is either enclosed in a greeting card and mailed directly to the honoree or at the request of the donor, sent to the donor for presenting in person — whichever way he/she desires. The insert describes the project, but does not include the monetary donation given. 

  • How much of my donation goes directly to the cause?

    Ninety percent of your donation goes directly to the cause(s) you choose to gift to. We retain 10 percent for overhead and outreach costs. This enables us to research agencies and projects, write articles, design and publish our catalog and marketing materials, maintain our website, pay for office supplies and staff, and cover other necessary operational expenses. Ten percent doesn't really cover all costs of operation, which is why we must appeal to constituents for donations to the "AGI Mission" Fund Project 22.

  • How much of my donation is tax deductible?

    All donations to our projects are 100% tax deductible. Monies used to purchase goods and services (greeting cards, special postage, etc.) are non tax-deductible.

  • How can I be sure my gift is used as I have ordered?

    The projects we list are administered by US based nonprofit agencies that have made a contractual agreement with Alternative Gifts International to spend 100 percent of the funds raised for their project, exactly as described in the catalog. Our partners sign an agreement not to use any of the funding on their at-home administration. Our follow-up mandatory partner reports must detail exactly how funds were expended. Furthermore, each agency undergoes rigorous screening before it is selected.  

  • How do you make sure the money is used correctly by the agency?

    In several ways: Our staff may travel to project locations, meet frequently with representatives from the agencies, contact them for updates, and require each agency to submit regular written reports. We are also very careful to validate agencies before accepting their projects. Agencies are required to sign a binding contract before the project is accepted, stating that funds will be used only as designated by AGI and solely to the project featured in our annual catalog.

  • What is the "AGI Mission" Fund?

    This fund allows us to develop educational programs and projects designed to raise awareness about the need to become committed to alternative giving. This fund also enables us to recruit and assist more Alternative Gift Markets. While we have dispersed over $30 million to projects over the past 30 years, it is an annual struggle to raise adequate funding for such expenses. 

  • What is the "Where Needed Most" cause used for?

    "Where Needed Most" donations go to the alternative gift catalog causes that do not receive the anticipated donation support.  A minimum payout is guaranteed to each sponsored project and if designated donations to a project fall short, "Where Needed Most" funds are used to make up the difference. 

  • Why should I donate to AGI instead of another agency?

    We are a nonprofit agency working to help other nonprofits raise much-needed funds for their life-saving projects. We are a small staff and office making a huge impact and pride ourselves in the service we provide, particularly the grassroots organizations featured in our annual catalog. Agencies consider us to be a valuable service to them. We are also a valuable resource for our donors, because we provide a list of projects from different agencies which have already been selected for credibility and effectiveness. We also differ from other charitable programs by allowing our donors to specify a particular project rather than a general area, and we have no “minimum donation.”

  • What about confidentiality of my personal information?

    Our mailing list is completely confidential. It has never been and will never be sold, given away or otherwise revealed to an entity outside of AGI. Donors may opt-out of our email and mail communication at any time, without question.

  • What is Alternative Gifts International's Privacy Policy?

    We neither sell, rent, nor share our mailing lists to any nonprofit agency/organization or for-profit business. The donor's privacy is of utmost importance to us.

  • What kinds of projects does AGI fund?

    We specifically look for programs that offer a sustainable solution to a global problem. 
We fund both national and international projects in several categories: hunger relief, shelter, water, livestock, sustainable agriculture, the environment, medical assistance, peace and justice, development, child survival, education, and emergency disaster relief. Our major focus in selecting projects is: a sustainable approach to the abolition of global poverty and the renewal of the planet's endangered environment.  

  • How can my nonprofit participate?

    First, an agency must have 501(c)3 nonprofit status with proof from the IRS or an international governing agency. It must then go through the complete application process. (See the next question for more information.)

  • What happens if an agency partner misuses AGI funds?

    To date, we have not encountered this issue. Sometimes circumstances beyond the agency’s control, such as rioting, war, natural disaster, etc. may occur. In such cases, we withhold the funds raised for the project until things can be brought back on track. By doing so, we honor the trust of our donors that their gifts will be used as they stipulated. In very rare instances, if we discover a violation of contract by an agency, we will immediately cancel the funding for it. The gifts collected would be directed to another agency with a similar focus or to our most needed program. If we have already paid out funds to the project, these must be returned to AGI. Again, the funds will then be sent to a similar validated project or directed to where needed most.

  • What documentation does AGI require from agencies?

    We take great care in selecting agencies. All accepted agencies must provide proof of their 501(c)3 nonprofit status, financial records (audits, annual reports, budgets, etc.), a very specific project proposal, and letters of reference from other agencies. 

  • How does AGI select projects?

    We have long-standing relationships with a number of large and small, respected aid agencies. Every year, they are invited to send a detailed project proposal for the coming year. All agencies must submit proof of their nonprofit status, financial documents supporting their work, a proposed project document, and written evidence of effectiveness and sustainability. 

    Every year, we receive proposals for far more projects than we can include in our "Gifts Inspiring Change" Catalog. When selecting projects for the catalog, we use several criteria, including geographical region, urgent need, donor appeal, and a sustainable approach to a global problem. For more information about submitting a proposal to AGI, please email: surinder@alternativegifts.org

  • How does AGI select food pantries and shelters for its "Hungry/Homeless Americans" project?

    By hosting an Alternative Gift Market, Gift Market hosts can nominate a local shelter or food pantry program to receive an award from our “Feeding the Hungry/Sheltering the Homeless” program. Eligible pantries and shelters are chosen on a first-come, first-served basis. We aim to select 10 pantries and 10 shelters each year to receive a grant (typically between $1,500 - $3,000 each). These agencies can apply for funding for two consecutive years only and must wait out the next two consecutive years before becoming eligible again. Pantries and shelters are chosen during the fiscal year, rather than before the annual catalog is published in July. If you have hosted an Alternative Gift Market during the current fiscal year, you are eligible to nominate a pantry or shelter in your area. Please contact agi@alternativegifts.org for details.