Long ago we started to unhook from obligatory — and often stressful — holiday gift buying. We became big fans of giving money to a charity in friends’ names, instead of the usual gift that nobody needs. Every year, we send charity gift cards. In the past we’d address and stamp the envelopes, wondering if there was an alternative way to send our greeting/gift that would save paper, stamps, and energy but still deliver the message in a festive way.

We steered clear of email cards because we couldn’t find any that delivered the visual message we wanted AND because they lacked an envelope, which we think an essential part of the pleasure of receiving a card.

Then we discovered Paperless Post, a website that allows you to design your own cards (to a degree) and then send them in a sort of digital envelope that the recipient gets to open online. Once you create an account, your first few cards are free; after that, the charge is a fraction of what snailmail costs. It’s the envelope that got us.

Early on, we found many of Paperless Post’s holiday card design offerings to be a bit staid. But since they started, their offerings have expanded greatly. AND we discovered that we could customize some of them to deliver more extreme messages. We snooped through lots of not-quite-our-style cards until we hit page 9 of Photo Holiday Cards (under Cards: Holiday) and found plain, borderless photo cards (in square, horizontal and vertical sizes). You upload your jpeg, choose from various color and type options, and compose your note. In addition to publishing cornball snapshots of the family, you can use ANY jpeg from your archive. So we took a favorite quote by Mohammed Ali and made it into a jpeg in Photoshop. Voila: our alt-version of a New Year’s greeting:

… inside is our message wishing joy in the New Year. We’re could also use this card to let our friends know that we’ve “gifted” them with a donation to a charity…

Plain photo card templates offer endless possibilities for devising unique holiday cards (with or without the gift). You could draw or paint your own card, then scan it and save as a jpeg for uploading to the site.  Scan old polaroids and black & white vintage photos. We’re pondering the ethics of using another artist’s image (collage-like) for private use only (what do you think?) …These stars from a Maira Kalman drawing sure makes a swell card:

Maira Kalman via S. Schneider

Paperless Post also has notecards (our favorite has a lightbulb as a logo), invitations and birthday cards. If you don’t feel like making your own, there’s a big selection of photo cards by Magnum photographers, like Robert Capa’s “Snow Fight, China, 1927”:

…But the Photo Christmas Card template is our favorite, usable all year long…


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One thought on “Virtual Gift Cards That Do Good AND Deliver Your Best Wishes

  1. Thanks so much for this timely post. I finally stopped dithering and sent my holiday cards tonight — via Paperless Post (with a donation to the New York Women’s Foundation).

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