For Lulu's first birthday last week, we asked that guests not bring presents, which may have seemed a little abrupt on the invite, but we love having parties and our friends have been so generous to us over the years, plus Lulu has been given so much already she honestly doesn't need for another thing. Many people respected this request, but some live to give & brought a gift anyway.
Two of our friends came up with the best way to give a gift without giving a gift. They gave donations to UNICEF on Lulu's behalf. Instead of Lulu receiving a gift, 'she' gave 600 sachets of micro nutrient powder, three local language story books, 100 measles vaccines, 200 polio vaccines and 20 pencils and exercise books.
I think this is a fabulous idea, one I'll be using for upcoming kids birthdays. As for Lulu's next birthday party, many years from now (I don't see the need to hold one again until she starts asking for a party), I'll add a note to the invite which says 'in lieu of gifts please donate to UNICEF'.