The holiday season brings out the best in people. The spirit of giving is in the air — not only for giving to those you love, but also to those less fortunate.
And what’s even better than doing those two things separately? Combining them in one gift.
Doing so is easier than you think, as many non-profit organizations offer gift-specific ways to support their missions. Some are donations with distinct labels, so you know what your money goes towards; others are physical products whose proceeds benefit the cause.
In the past, for example, I’ve purchased a “goat” — which, in reality, was a donation to a charity that gave livestock to poor families — and also paid for a year of school for one Nepalese girl. When I gave my friends cards that explained these gifts, they were delighted I’d supported such great causes in their name.
If you’re stumped on what to get someone for the holidays, it’s hard to go wrong with a charitable gift. You can support a cause close to that person’s heart, or get inspired by the following ideas.
5 Virtual Gifts That Support Charity
The following gifts don’t come with anything but the warm and fuzzies — but I think it’s way more fun to tell someone “I bought you two chickens” than “I donated $25 to charity for you.”
If you’re looking for a physical gift you can actually wrap in paper, scroll to the next section.
1. DonorsChoose Gift Card — Any amount
You’re not going to fix education in America with one gift, but you could significantly change one classroom — and the students within it — with a donation to DonorsChoose, a platform where public school teachers can crowdfund supplies.
The cool thing about a DonorsChoose gift card is that your giftee can log onto the website and choose a teacher and project that speaks to them.
2. A Month of Art Supplies — $10
Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the western hemisphere; the average adult makes less than $5,000 a year.
As in most places, an education is key to a bright future, and La Esperanza Granada is one organization working to bring more opportunities to Nicaraguan children.
The organization has a variety of options in its online store. If you have a friend who loves art, for example, $10 will buy a month’s worth of art supplies for a Nicaraguan student.
3. Developmental Toy for a Child With a Disability — $10
In the Southeast Asian country of Laos, unexploded ordnance still injures and kills civilians each year. COPE is a Laotian organization that provides prosthetics and support to victims of these explosions.
For $10, you could buy a developmental toy for a child with a disability. This might be a good fit for your doctor aunt, or for that friend who just got back from an epic Southeast Asian backpacking trip.
4. 2 Chickens — $25
You may have heard of “gifting livestock” through the organization Heifer International, but CARE has better ratings on Charity Navigator and does similar work.
In their gift shop, $25 purchases two chickens for a poor family in a developing country. The best part is chickens are a gift that keeps giving (or, rather, laying).
5. Apples or Broccoli — $25
Got a friend who loves food? Or who’s a health nut?
You can help them give apples or broccoli to a hungry family through Feeding America, which supplies fresh nutritious food to 199 food banks across the country.
9 Physical Charitable Gifts
If you want something that supports charity and looks good under the tree, check out the following options.
6. Alzheimer’s Association Holiday Ornaments — $5.99
Alzheimer’s is a heartbreaking disease that affects 5.3 million Americans and their families. It’s also the only leading cause of death that can’t be prevented, cured or slowed.
The Alzheimer’s Association works tirelessly to fund research and raise awareness about the disease, and you can support them by buying this beautiful purple ornament for someone you love.
7. Coffee Mug — $8
Did you know families comprise nearly 40% of our country’s homeless population? Family Promise’s goal is to help these families find affordable housing and regain financial independence.
If you’d like to help its cause, check out this coffee mug for $8.
8. Nora Necklace — $19.99
All the profits from this simple — yet gorgeous — Grace Bracelet support trafficked women in Asia.
Starfish Project provides women living in brothels with the educational, medical and emotional care they desperately need.
9. ALSF Amazing Lemonade Stand Book — $15.95
What a great gift for a young child! This picture book is a true story about Alex, a little girl who battled cancer with a lemonade stand.
Who knows? It might even inspire your giftee to host their own lemonade stand fundraiser.
10. Handmade Bracelet — $24
Searching for a gift for your stylish friend? How about this handmade bracelet from Humanity Unified?
All of the profits from your purchase empower women in Rwanda through educational and job-training programs.
11. Sunshine Pal Teddy Bear — $20
Staying in a hospital is tough at any age — but for small children, it can be downright terrifying. Project Sunshine provides free educational, recreational and social programs to children facing medical challenges.
You can support them by purchasing a cuddly teddy bear for a child in your life; when you do, the organization will also give a teddy bear to a child in need.
12. Gourmet Salad Garden Kit — $22
Not sure what to get your vegan friend? We’ve got the answer: this gourmet salad garden kit, which comes complete with five seed varieties in a cute tin.
You’ll support Farm Sanctuary, whose goals are to “protect farm animals from cruelty” and “promote compassionate vegan living.”
13. TAPS Shirt — $20
The sudden loss of a loved one is the hardest thing many of us will ever have to go through. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) provides support and resources for people who have lost a military servicemember.
You can support its mission by buying one of their shirts for a loved one.
14. WildAid Tote Bag — $25
Which one of your friends was up in arms about Cecil the Lion? We’ve got a gift for them.
This tote bag is from WildAid, an organization that focuses on consumer education rather than poaching prevention. Their motto is, “When the buying stops, the killing stops, too.”
Your Turn: Do you have a favorite charity you like to support during the holidays?
Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.