Oxfam site is a different animal

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Instead of giving a fruitcake this holiday season, why not buy an alligator or 50 live trees for a member of your family?

Nonprofit group Oxfam America has created an online "Unwrapped" U.S. edition, where visitors can purchase faux gifts for charity.

"The online catalog first appeared in England and then in Ireland, and both have proven to be a great success," said Paulette Song, press officer for Oxfam America, Boston.

At www.oxfamamericaunwrapped.com, shoppers can buy items in categories such as saving lives, making a living, promoting human rights and women and families. The gift's recipient gets a card in the mail with the item's image on the front.

The online catalog contains gift items that symbolize Oxfam's work. The items represent project goals handled by Oxfam's seven offices worldwide. Buyers have placed a donation to Oxfam, therefore, in someone else's name.

"The donating public are an Internet-savvy one," Ms. Song said. "They are accustomed to shopping online, so we have a great vehicle to teach them about how Oxfam works around the world through the gifts they purchase."

Oxfam America works in 26 countries, aiding people living in poverty.

"The online catalog is a great education tool because visitors can see how gifts come into play," Ms. Song said.

Oxfam is marketing the new channel through banner ads, keyword buys and leveraging its donor lists. Offline, it has placed print ads and postcards in bars and restaurants in target cities.

"Historically, we have had a great number of different donor profiles," Ms. Song said. "Although we don't know the statistics online yet, we have a large interest in coastal regions, heavily concentrated in the Northeastern corridor, so we have done a big marketing push in the large cities in those regions."

Oxfam said the $50 crocodile gift has received the most page views while planting 50 trees ($30) is the most frequently purchased. Gifts start at $25 and exceed $500. Though Unwrapped has begun for the holiday season, it will be available and marketed afterward.

"I believe that in this market in

particular, people are commercially fatigued," Ms. Song said. "We know how mass commercialism is pushed every holiday season and how it can be draining, so instead people can use their conscientiousness to make a difference."

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