Merry Christmas!

merry christmas

The approach of the new year always gets me in the mood to clean up and clean out. And so it was that I was cleaning out my inbox and found this from Betty Clough, a long-time Market Coordinator for AGI. I had asked Betty for “words of encouragement” for other Market Coordinators.

Matthew 26:40, “ … when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.” is the one I use to promote AGI. It is the verse I taught my sons when they were young to explain how the “AGI” gifts they received each Christmas were a way for them to “give a birthday gift to Jesus”. This is now how we explain to our grandchildren why we read aloud our AGI gift descriptions before opening any of our other presents – to share the gifts we give to Jesus first because Christmas is really a celebration of Jesus being born!

From our family’s introduction to Alternative Gifts International in the early 1990’s at Colesville Presbyterian Church in Silver Spring, MD, every member of our close extended family has received an AGI gift every year. We carried AGI with us through subsequent military moves and our kids’ college years. It was the first family tradition our sons prepared their future wives to expect! After my husband’s retirement as an active duty US Navy chaplain in 2000, we brought AGI markets – in various forms – to both Braden River Presbyterian Church (Bradenton, FL) and to Peace Presbyterian Church (Lakewood Ranch, FL). My commitment to AGI is due to the fact that I feel any Christian organization where the service and witness grew from one individual church to an international mission must be “Holy Spirit – driven!” I also rejoice in sharing AGI’s policy of giving 90% to vetted Charities that covenant to give 100% of what they receive to the designated projects.

Betty’s commitment to AGI inspires all of us here. I share it with you in the hope that it will inspire you to think about what you’re committed to and how you live that commitment year in and year out.

I hope all your celebrations are filled with joy-

Merry Christmas!

– Laura

Leave a comment

Filed under AGI, guest posts

The Charitable-Industrial Complex

Recently this article from the New York Times appeared on my personal facebook page. It’s a challenging article, to say the least. I work in the so-called  ‘charitable-industrial’ complex, and the idea that I have something to gain by perpetuating the inequality that we experience in this world is unpalatable, to put it mildly.

But Buffett raises some good points. I’m sure that for some the ‘conscious laundering’ aspect of philanthropic giving is a real motivator/benefit. But I’m equally sure that for the vast majority of those who give, the motivation comes from a true desire to see positive change in the lives of the people served. I also absolutely agree that the model we have now, of  “lives and communities … destroyed by [a] system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few” doesn’t work, hasn’t worked, and won’t work in the future.

Buffett calls for a new model:  “a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code.”

I believe that what we’re doing here at Alternative Gifts International is part of the “new operating system” that Buffett dreams of –  despite the fact that we’ve been around for 27 years. We are undeniably a charitable giving organization. But the thing we do that holds hope for the future is our work to change the culture of gift-giving.

Back in the early 1980’s, when our founder, Harriet Prichard held her first Alternative Christmas Market, she was a pioneer. She offered shoppers, consumers, a way to give gifts in a completely different way. No one was doing charitable giving as an alternative to holiday gifts. These days, if you google the term, alternative gift, the search engine comes up with 137 million hits. It seems that every non-profit website I visit has a process for giving a gift in honor of a loved one. And that’s a change. Prior to Harriet’s first market, giving a charitable gift in someone’s honor was virtually unheard of. Now, it’s everywhere.

The heart of alternative giving is the knowledge that what we, as inhabitants of one of the most privileged societies on earth, have enough. Enough food, shelter, transportation, medical care and enough sweaters, consumer electronics and objets d’art. We have enough. And only when we realize that we have enough can we begin to embrace a ‘new operating system.’

Leave a comment

Filed under AGI

A Great Example

marion table for mujeres de maiz

There’s several things I love about this picture.

  1.  It shows a mother and daughter, working together to promote an AGI project at an Alternative Gift Market (the 2013 Marion [KS] Alternative Gift Market). Teaching children that Christmas is about giving, not just getting, is important. Really important. This mom is teaching and leading by example.
  2. This table, for Project 12, is well-labeled. The numbered card held up by the menu holder makes it easy for shoppers to identify which project your table is for.  Shoppers LOVE to be able to find the projects they want to support, and using the numbers from the AGI catalog is the simplest way to help shoppers find them.
  3. This table is bright, attractive and energetic looking, without being confusing or too busy. There’s tons of color and the display is thematically linked to the country where the project is located ((Mexico). The project poster is prominent, but otherwise the use of text is minimal. The project insert is available at the table, so shoppers can read exactly how the gift is used.
  4. The ornament is beautiful, inexpensive, easy-to-make, and related to the project. The partner agency is called Mujeres de Maiz – Women of the Corn. The ornament is a glass bulb, filled with popcorn kernels. Ingenious!

Be sure to send us photos of your market so we can all share our great ideas!

Leave a comment

Filed under AGI, Logisitics, Market ideas

Who Do You Know?

I’ve been working on the post-market survey that we send out every year to our Market Coordinators. Our goal is always to improve our performance – for our volunteers, for our agency partners, and ultimately, for the people we serve – those who actually receive the gifts (mosquito nets, medicines, animals, etc.) in our catalog.

This year, we’re going electronic and I’ve been using to create a web-based survey tool. Our hope is that we’ll get a better response rate by making the survey quicker and easier. While I was playing around with the program, I found a survey that AGI conducted back in 2010. It seems that there may have been a mailing associated with this survey, but it’s not clear. The survey was not directed at Market Coordinators, specifically, but at people who’d engaged with AGI through a market, or on our website. I don’t know how many people had the opportunity to take the survey, but I do know that 29 people responded.

survey monkey how did you learn

Here’s a better look:

survey monkey closeup

So here’s what I noticed: almost 40% of the respondents learned about Alternative Gifts International through a friend, or by attending an Alternative Gift Market. An additional 11% learned about us through their congregations. So I ask you: Who do you know that doesn’t yet know about alternative giving with Alternative Gifts International?

Yes, this survey was small, and it’s a bit our of date. Yes, we’re getting more and more traffic on our facebook page. And yes, we’re still working on a much better website which we anticipate will increase our visibility and generate donations. But we can’t ignore the fact that AGI is dependent on people in one-on-one interactions, who invite, educate, explain and are making a difference in the lives of so many.

Who do you know?

Leave a comment

Filed under AGI, Markets

Finding a Meeting Time

One of the challenges of leading a team is to find meeting times that work for everyone involved. is a great tool for this. I’ve been using it lately to find a time to host a post-Market wrap up meeting.

Basically, you create and ‘event’ and pick times that work for you to hold the event/meeting. With just a few clicks you create an interactive calendar that you then send to your team. They click on the times that work for them, and when you sign back in, you can see the time that works best for everyone.

Here’s a screenshot of my first attempt to find a time for a meeting: screenshot screenshot



As you can see, none of the times I picked worked for everyone, so I’m going to create a new set of times and see if I can get everyone there. The little red dots show me how many people can’t make that time, so clearly, Monday the 25th is out. All but one of us can come on Saturday at 11, so that might work. If I click on the names under ‘Responses,’ I can see what works for each individual that I’ve invited.

Creating an event and sending out the link is easy as 1,2,3. You don’t have to create an account, and it’s totally free.

What other online tools have you found to help you lead your team?

Leave a comment

November 19, 2013 · 11:46 am