Like all hobbyists, card makers love what we do. Card making is fun and a great outlet for creative expression. Many would even call it therapeutic, as the benefits of art therapy are well known. But did you know that when we make cards we are actually making the world a better place, one card at a time, for other people, too?
Making a handmade card takes time and skill. So why bother in a world where effortless ecards are so easily available? This is a question we card makers intuitively know the answer to, but it actually goes further than that. Cards created by hand make their recipients happier and healthier than ecards – and there is scientific research to prove it!
In 2013, the U.K’s Royal Mail did a scientific study comparing the effects of receiving a handwritten card to the effects of receiving an ecard. They partnered for the study with cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Lynda Shaw and scientific research group Mindlab.
For the first part of the study, the researchers measured the electrical activity in the brains of participants using caps with electrodes. Different frequencies of electrical brain activity have been established in previous research to be related to different emotions. The moms (or “mums” as the British say) recorded brain activity associated with more positive emotions from viewing handwritten cards than from viewing electronic messages such as emails.
Another part of the Royal Mail study consisted of an online survey of over 2200 adults. Moms were asked to do a word association exercise, assigning negative or positive words to handwritten cards and electronic messages. Analyzing the word association results showed that moms liked handwritten cards twice as much as social media messages, and three times as much as email greetings. So science proves it – mom really does like it better when you send her an actual handwritten card!
(Oh, and if you were thinking of tweeting mom for her birthday? Survey says… moms really hate that!)
But it turns out, you are sending more than just a greeting that makes people feel good when you send a handmade card. You are also giving your loved ones’ health a boost, because of all of that feel‐good electrical brain activity! In the campaign presenting the study results to the public, Dr. Shaw said, “I firmly believe that receiving cards increases self‐esteem, helps to stave off feelings of loneliness and isolation and even to ward off the early stages of depression.”
Handmade cards are also a great way to nurture friendships, which have been repeatedly proven in medical research to have psychological and health benefits. Adults with larger numbers of social connections, according to the Mayo Clinic, have higher self‐confidence and self‐worth, lower stress, and are better able to cope with trauma. People with more social connections may also be physically healthier (including living longer) due in part to the help of friends in changing unhealthy habits, and also due to lower levels of depression and other mental stressors that can cause physical stress on the body.
It’s wonderful that we can share these benefits of handmade cards with our family and friends, but most card makers make many more cards than we can use. Wouldn’t it be great if we could share our extra cards – and the benefits of health and mental well‐being they can inspire – with others, instead of keeping them tucked away in a box waiting to be used?
In fact, there are many worthwhile organizations that need cards, and that accept donations of handmade cards to use. Donating to these organizations is a fantastic way to enjoy your hobby while also helping others. Here’s some ways that you can share your cards with those who need them!
Types of Cards: encouragement, cheer, thank you, others.
Contact: Your local hospital auxiliary
In their support role for the hospital, local hospital auxiliaries can use cards for patient and staff support. Some hospital auxiliaries also run gift shops that sell handmade items where card donations may be welcomed. (Note that many hospitals will not accept cards with “get well” themes or religious messages, but contact your hospital directly to see what they accept.)
Types of Cards: All holidays & occasions, thank you, hello, cheer.
Contact: A facility in your community.
One of the challenges of providing quality of life for residents of long term care facilities is helping them continue to feel connected to family, friends, and the community. Providing them a supply of handmade cards to use to keep in contact with their loved ones is one thing that can help bridge that gap.
Color Give Smile
Types of Cards: Cheer and friendship
This group promotes the sending of positive messages of cheer and friendship to seniors living in assisted living facilities. Participants can find their own local facility to send to, or Color Give Smile will provide them with contact information for a suggested facility whose seniors are in need of some cheer.
Ronald McDonald House
Types of Cards: All holidays & occasions, thank you, cheer
Contact: Visit https://www.rmhc.org/ to find a facility near you
Ronald McDonald Houses attached to children’s hospitals around the country enable families to stay near their child while the child receives needed medical care. Whether it is supporting families or thanking their donors and volunteers, handmade cards can play a small, but valuable role in the important mission of Ronald McDonald House.
Send A Smile For Kids
Types of Cards: Varies – check their request updates.
This blog currently serves five different children’s hospitals around the United States, collecting and distributing cards for children who are hospitalized at the facilities. Their card needs vary, so be sure to check the blog for updates and holiday shipping deadlines.
Cards for Hospitalized Kids
Types of Cards: Cheer, encouragement
This Illinois‐based group collects cards for hospitalized kids and distributes them to hospitals in all 50 states. As their motto says, “Doctors provide medicine and we provide hope, joy and magic.”
Types of Cards: Thank you, hello, cheer, baby, wedding, holidays, sympathy
Contact: Your congregation’s secretary Many card makers need look no further than their own church for a great place to donate their cards, as even in the age of email many churches still send large amounts of traditional cards to members. Ask your church secretary what cards are most needed!
Types of Cards: thank you, others
Contact: Your charity of choice. You can find most online. Check https://www.donorschoose.org/ to find a charity local to you,
Charities spend a lot of time saying thank you, to their donors and to their volunteers. Other cards they might need depend on the particular charity’s mission, so check with your chosen charity to find out their needs.
Red Cross Holidays for Heroes
Types of Cards: Christmas
Contact: Your local chapter of the American Red Cross
Under its previous name of Holiday Mail for Heroes, this was a national Red Cross program that collected holiday cards to recognize veterans and members of the military. It was recently given a new name and turned over to control of individual local chapters, so check with the chapter in your local area for their card donation needs.
Types of Cards: Cheer, encouragement, and thank you
This non‐profit organization sends care packages year‐round to members of the United States military that are deployed overseas. Military Missions collects signed cards of encouragement to include in the packages they send to help show support for the troops.
Bring Smiles to Seniors
Types of Cards: Thinking of you, positive messages, cheer
Bring Smiles to Seniors is a national non-profit that focuses on showing beloved senior citizens love and kindness. They are looking for handmade or store-bought cards to give to seniors all around the country, or supplies for organized cardmaking events. They do ask that you send the card unsealed so they can sticker it with an easy-to-open sticker. They're looking for everyday "Thinking of You" cards and general positivity themes. You can learn more at their website.
Types of Cards: Birthday, encouragement, cheer, get well, anniversary, baby, welcome home
The Cards Plus Team at Soldiers’ Angels supports deployed service members, veterans, and their families through the encouragement of cards and notes. Angel team members can also request cards for someone they know in need of support.
Support Military Spouses
Types of Cards: Cheer and thank you
This organization is devoted to supporting what they call the “heroes at home” – the spouses who take on the challenges of life with a service member. SMS organizes the sending of “caring cards” to show these men and women that their sacrifices on the home front are appreciated and not forgotten.
Types of Cards: Cheer, thank you, encouragement, holiday
This non‐profit, founded by a military wife, is devoted to one simple mission: collecting cards of encouragement for deployed service members. Heartillary sends cards out year‐round, so there’s no need to wait for a holiday to share some cheer!
And last, but not least, along with all of our suggestions of great places that can benefit from donations of your extra handmade cards, here’s a reminder of one that will not: Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Every year, as the holidays approach, a meme circulates on social media promoting sending cards to the medical center addressed to some variation of “any recovering soldier”. But due to security restrictions, Walter Reed cannot deliver mail that isn’t addressed to a specific service member. Any undeliverable mail that is received at Walter Reed’s offsite mail processing facility is destroyed. So, please – save Walter Reed the hassle (and your cards from destruction) and send them to a place that you know welcomes them!
Whether you are giving them to Mom, the PTA at school, the local hospital, or soldiers fighting for our country, handmade cards carry a heartfelt message and immeasurable benefits that no other medium can replace. Share your handmade love today!