Skip the tie. Give dad a "gift of giving."
Its easier than buying him a gift card. Just log on, open a giving account (or make a charitable gift in his honor) and let the good feelings flow. You can do it for your "globally-aware Dad" at GlobalGiving. Give "Teacher Dad" a gift through at DonorsChoose. Find something for "Progressive Dad" at the Tides Network. And "The-dad-who-cares-about-domestic-issues" will love the perfect gift from NetworkForGood. Dad can even give a gift with his kids at YouthGive.
Its a whole lot more meaningful than another gift card. The primary beneficiary of gift cards is the merchant. These cards have become enormous sellers in the last few years, accounting for about 5 percent of the $457 billion spent during last year's holiday season. Merchants love gift cards because some crazy percentage of them get tossed out with the scads of wrapping paper and tinsel. This means the merchant gets the cash (in advance) and never has to sell the good.
In contrast, the real beneficiaries of "gifts of giving" are Dad and you. Why? Because it opens the door to the gift of conversation. Instead of asking Dad what color necktie he'd like, ask him what matters to him, and what he'd like to see different in the world. Make a gift in his honor to that cause or organization. Find out if you also share some of his interests or concerns. Maybe the rest of the family wants to chime in -- is there something you all support (or would like to)? Is there a volunteer opportunity you could all do together?
The conversation alone is worth the price of the gift. And certainly more memorable than another ugly necktie or a gift card that he'll lose in a drawer.
Follow Lucy Bernholz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/p2173