The season for giving is upon us and all of your favorite retailers are just dying for you to come and ring their bell. As usual, the first weekend of December brought me to a host of holiday gatherings filled with conversations about the hottest gifts and what is on everyone’s buying list. While most people were talking about iPad minis, my friend Crystal told me about her most intriguing gift purchase: a goat for her father. My obvious reaction was, “Crystal, you bought your dad a goat? I had no idea he had a farm!” She laughed and explained that her father is a strong supporter of Save the Children and that instead of giving him yet another knickknack for the junk drawer, she purchased a goat in his name to be donated to a family in need. Charitable donations at the holidays are not a novel idea, but all kid-ding aside, when was the last time you thought of buying someone a farm animal for Christmas?
Crystal’s philanthropic flair inspired me to research other ways to give back and I was overwhelmed by the amount of charitable giving opportunities out there. Did you know that there is even a new holiday designed to raise awareness around Charities called Giving Tuesday? The Tuesday after Thanksgiving charities and nonprofits across the country rolled out fundraising drives and recruited volunteers to support their communities by volunteering or donating to local charities. #GivingTuesday was started to challenge Americans to think beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday and remind us that the spirit of the holiday giving season should be about community. The result? The UN Foundation reported that the initiative spurred some $10 million in donations—a 53 percent increase from donations received on the same day last year. Success!
While you may have missed out on Giving Tuesday, you can still fight back against consumerism this holiday season. Here are a few fantastic organizations that offer charitable giving opportunities for everyone on your list:
Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organization for children. They respond to children in need during natural disasters and conflict and helps to resolve the ongoing struggles children face every day. Your donations can help replace poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease with hope for a family in need.
Little Kids Rock is an organization that provides free instruments and lessons to kids in low-income communities that do not provide music education. This is the perfect gift for my passionate musician brother (hopefully he is not reading this)!
Feeding America gives hope to families and communities through the gift of meals. More than 50 million Americans struggle with hunger but you can help—a gift of $21 can provide nearly two weeks of meals, hope and joy to a family working to make ends meet.
Toms One for One program: With every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need.
Oxfam offers more than 50 gift ideas from books for kids to a tribe of goats. Each donation goes to people who truly need it and where the gift will have the greatest impact to improve the lives of those living in poverty.
Cell Phones for Soldiers is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing cost-free communication services to active duty military members and veterans.
TisBest Charity Gift Cards empower your gift recipients to support good causes they are passionate about. The TisBest Charity Gift Card is a donation gift that works like a conventional gift card but instead of buying stuff, the recipient “spends” the TisBest card by selecting which of their 300+ charity partners receives the money.
UNICEF: The U.S. Fund for UNICEF fights for the survival and development of the world’s most vulnerable children and protects their basic human rights. You can help by making a donation or purchasing specific gifts like Child Survival Food Packs & Emergency School Kits.
Carbonfund allows you to buy gift cards that represent measurements, in tons, of carbon emissions. The concept is you calculate an estimate of your friend’s carbon footprint based on where they live and their daily activities and offset their carbon emissions!
Heifer International’s mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth. By giving families a hand-up, not just a hand-out, they empower them to turn lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope. This season give the gift of joy to a loved one while helping families around the world receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant.
If livestock isn’t your thing, keep in mind that there thousands of ways to give back and with enough research, you can be sure to find something that will mean more to your loved ones than that video game ever will.