The charity gifts that will make you the hero of the holidays

When it comes down to it, what makes Christmas special is the sense of giving, family and indulgent food the season brings. Especially for adults, it’s not really about the physical gifts under the tree. Instead, many of us would say we’d prefer less stuff and more giving this Christmas. That’s what makes charity gifts such crowd-pleasers.

Thanks again to Lauren Janus of Thoughtful Philanthropy for guest writing this blog post.

Why (in most cases) you aren’t really buying a goat

The majority of charity gifts are symbolic gifts. What does that mean? It means a charity like Save the Children might estimate that it costs £10 to buy a set of textbooks for a child in a developing country.  So they give you the option to ‘give’ a set of textbooks for a £10 donation. In reality, that £10 could go to buy textbooks, but it’s really just a general donation to Save the Children’s educational efforts.


There’s nothing wrong with symbolic gifts—you’re still donating to a worthwhile cause. But it’s important to understand what your money is really going toward.


To make life easier, here are three charity gifts that do what they say on the tin.


1. Mosquito Net.  The Against Malaria Foundation is a top-rated charity that buys long-lasting insecticidal nets and distributes them to people living in Malaria-prone areas of the world. It really is that simple. Malaria kills half a million people each year and is the number one killer of pregnant women worldwide. For $2.00 (or about £1.60), the Against Malaria Foundation will buy a net, give it to someone who needs it and ensure it is used properly. You can even give them an email address and receive photos and a video of each net distribution.


2. Tree planted in the Caledonian Forest. Got a nature-lover on your list? He or she’s likely to be especially excited about getting a gift that helps, rather than harms, the planet. Trees for Life is a charity working to restore the tree life of the Caledonian Forest in the Scottish Highlands. For £18, you can send your tree-hugging brother a personalized certificate and a native tree will be planted in his honor.  


3. Global Giving gift card.  If you’re looking for a slick, super-simple way to please everyone on your gift list, Global Giving gift cards may be your answer.  Global Giving is like a giant online shopping mall of charity projects in need of funding. Local charities from around the world apply to Global Giving, which vets them before posting the charities to the Global Giving website.


Donors can go online to choose from hundreds of charities working on everything from educating Afghan girls to feeding orphaned meerkats in a South African animal reserve.  When you buy a Global Giving gift card, the recipient can go to and choose the charity project he or she wants to support.


This Christmas, suppress the urge to buy yet more stuff for under the tree. Instead, choose a charity gift for one or more of the people on your gift list. You’ll be supporting a great cause whilst saving your loved one the trouble of a possible trip to the returns queue.



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