GLOBAL giving trends show that hope and empathy inspire most donors to give – and the holidays, including the end-of-year festive season, motivate 61% of them.

In Asia in particular, surveys have shown that religious giving is more diverse than any other region, with 32% of donors giving at Christmas, 25% at Eid al-Fitr, and 17% during Diwali.

With Christmas just around the corner, now is a great time for NGOs to connect with their benefactors. However, as fundraisers know, donating money is just the first step in the philanthropic journey. It’s also important to engage with donors to demonstrate the impact of their gift and directly connect them with the recipients too.

Which is one reason why wish trees have become engrained in the culture of year-end giving. Rather than just raising money to benefit beneficiaries, the wish tree gives donors an opportunity to bond on a personal level with a cause.

“If you cannot feed a hundred people, then just feed one,” said Mother Teresa. 

The wish tree, either on the leaves or tags, usually has one wish per beneficiary. In the US, the trees are often set up in shopping malls, so you can select one recipient and buy them gifts while you holiday shop for your friends and family.

But you don’t have to be a fundraiser or even associated with an NGO to create a wish tree. Peer-to-peer fundraising is a rapidly growing trend and a very successful way to support causes that are meaningful to you and your family, friends, or colleagues.

A third of donors globally have donated to a peer-to-peer campaign and nearly 20% created their own campaign in 2017.

While it’s great to take ideas that work and not reinvent the wheel, it’s also important to make the campaign your own. Though some of the wish tree’s popularity evolved in the West due to its connection with Christmas trees, it’s also deeply entrenched in the Hindu cultural tradition. In mythology, the kalpavriksha was a “wish-fulfilling tree”, mentioned in early Sanskrit literature. So, be creative, and personalise your wish tree to include your personality, beliefs and passions.

Here are a few gift tree ideas to get you thinking – you can set up a literal tree on which to hang the wishes like WaterAid India, decorate a faux tree like students at Manipal University did, create a virtual tree of wishes or even make your tree a wish box.

The best part about the wish tree is its flexibility. The leaves or tags can be any type of wish you want. They could reflect literal gifts that can be taken and handed out to those less fortunate, a donation amount to go towards fulfilling a wish, or a promise of volunteer hours.  

Immerse yourself in the spirit of the holiday season and talk to your office to see if they would let you set up a wish tree in your workplace for a cause and NGO you support. Or, next time you’re grabbing coffee at your favourite café, ask them if you could set up a wish tree for their other customers to give to.

But most importantly, take joy in knowing that however small the wishes may be that you fulfil, they will have a big impact on the wish-makers.

If you would like to fulfil someone’s wish today, check out our ongoing fundraisers.

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