My parents recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. My sister and I were racking our brains trying to figure out what to give them as a gift. After doing a search on the internet, my sister stumbled on a great gift that ended up being PERFECT! It could work equally well as an anniversary, Christmas, father’s day, mother’s day, retirement, or birthday gift!
You invite friends to call a phone number and leave a message or memory about the loved one who is receiving the gift. You then combine all these messages and package them for the recipient in some sort of gift. This can be as simple as an audio CD, a flash-drive for their computer, or a keepsake box that plays sound when it is opened, or even a digital picture frame that plays mp3′s. In this article I will describe three different ways you can do this. The first two will cost some money. The last one will cost you NOTHING but your own time in putting it together. That’s right, a FREE gift!
Voicequilt.com is perhaps the simplest and most versatile method, but it will cost you. You pay Voicequilt for a certain amount of time for use of their system. Next, you send out invitations to friends of the recipient via email, social media, or snail mail. These friends then call the number provided by Voicequilt and leave a message in your account. Now you can listen to the messages these friends have left, and change the order of the messages for the best impact to the recipient. You can choose a keepsake to have all these messages put onto, and you’re done! Voicequilt will take care of the rest! This method can cost as little as $50, but for a good gift it will probably be more like $150 to $200 if you are buying one of their keepsake gifts.
Another option is Speaksake.com, which offers the same service as Voicequilt, but they only provide a CD which they send out when it is completed. This method will cost less than $50.
The free method uses a Google Voice account. Google Voice is a free service that provides you with a phone number for people to call. With Google Voice you have one phone number that calls several different phones such as cell, home, and office all at the same time, but it is also SO much more. It allows you to have voice mail that sends the voice message to you through email. This email will have an attachment which is a wave file you can use for your keepsake gift.
CAUTION: This Google Voice method will require a lot of work, and may not be for everyone. Google Voice sends it’s sound files as .wav file attachments. This means that you will probably need to change each message into another format in order to be useful in most keepsakes that you might want as the final gift. Most devices use mp3 file formats to store voice (or music).
Google Voice method explained:
I’m not going to give a detailed step-by-step explanation of this method. If you need that, you probably should not be using this method. However, if you are up to the challenge, here is the basic outline of what you need to do:
1) Create a Google Voice account and select a phone number that is going to be local to as many people as possible.
2) Record a greeting in the Google Voice Account such as “Hi, this is the voice keepsake number for xxxxx. Please leave a fond memory of something you did together after the tone. Thanks for your participation in this gift!”
3) Be sure to set up the voicemail in Google Voice to be sent to your email account.
4) Create a facebook or other social media group, and invite all the people needed (EXCEPT the recipient of the gift) to be part of the group. In the group page explain what the group is about, giving them the Google Voice number for people to call. BE SURE TO HAVE A FINAL DEADLINE DATE. Expect everyone to procrastinate!!
5) Send snail mail /email to everyone who is not part of the social media group (or call them on the phone).
6) Once you have all the messages in your email inbox, save the messages to your computer. Now convert them to MP3 or whatever format you need for the final product (usually MP3). You can do this using Zamzar or any of the thousands of converter programs and services out there.
7) Now take these messages and put them on your CD, flash-drive, or digital picture frame and wrap them as a gift.
We ended up with almost an hour of messages (a total of 68 messages) for my parents. Be sure to have a box of tissues handy when the recipient listens to it!
The Google Voice method is cumbersome but doable. VoiceQuilt really makes the job easy. We used their service in doing our parent’s gift, and it was a total success. My sister and I spent lots of time putting pictures together for a digital frame (which we ordered from Amazon.com), and I spent lots of time contacting people to have them leave messages. It is time-consuming any way you do it, but I’m glad we used VoiceQuilt because it saved me lots of time that I would have spent converting to MP3.
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