A Better Way to Celebrate

I love planning and organizing birthday parties!  Over the years I must have put together dozens of parties for the little ones – each one with a special theme, creative invitations, entertainment, tasty cake and useful loot bags! This year I did something a little different for one of my child’s party.  A while back someone had introduced me to a website called echoage.com.  It’s a website that allows party guests to donate money towards the birthday child’s gift and also give to charity at the same time.  At the time I filed the information away and thought a) I can’t ask guests to give money b) how do I explain to a three year old that she won’t be opening any gifts at her party this year?

Fast forward five years later and I’m planning another birthday celebration.  In fact, I didn’t even want my child to have a party in the first place, since she didn’t need anymore gifts.  Then I remembered Echoage. My daughter had been begging us for an expensive flute for months, and I thought this would be a great way for her to start saving for the instrument.  As well, at her age, she’s able to understand that it’s important to give back to the community too.  I have to say, as a planner I was very impressed with the usability of this website.  Like their motto says, it’s definetly a win, win, win for children, charities and busy parents.  In fact, the concept for the website is brilliant and most impressive, it was created by two moms!

Here’s how it works, first you choose your invitation style, add the details and upload a photo of your child. Next you choose your gift.  Is your child saving to buy a puppy, ipod, or bike?  Half the money contributed by guests is sent to your child to buy any gifts they choose. Third, you select your charity of choice.  Since my daughter loves animals and the environment, she chose to support the World Wildlife Fund. Choices range from the Canadian Diabetes Association to Plan Canada and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  Echoage will send half the money raised to the charity.  BONUS: if a guest contributes $30 or more they are eligible to receive a tax receipt!

This is where the website gets neat – the next step includes an online tracker to manage your party. On one screen you can add your guests, send out your evites, share your guest list and add to your calendar.  Once guests begin to respond you are notified via email instantly and can view RSVPs, contributions, birthday wishes and any notes the parents share about their child (ie. allergies).  What I loved about the online tracker is that the program told me the status of the invitation, for example, if it was viewed or not.  In many cases I ended up resending invites with the simple click of a button.  The site even sends out reminders a couple days before the party to all the guests!  Once the party is over the process continues to be user-friendly.  Echoage immediately sends half the funds to the charity and promptly mailed my daugher a cheque, and I’m proud to say she raised over $300 for her charity of choice. Lastly, I was able to quickly send out thank you notes showing our appreciation and letting guests know how much was raised.

I hope in the future the site expands to include Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations, Sweet 16s, Weddings, Showers and milestone occasions.

To plan your next echoage party, go to www.echoage.com.

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