I live on the opposite side of the world to my mother, but every year since I moved away she has given me chickens for Christmas. Well, not to me personally. Instead she has donated funds in my name to purchase chickens for a family in a developing country. I love "receiving" these gifts that give twice and they have really captured the imagination of my stepkids. If you would like to cut down on the consumerism this holiday season, the following 8 websites will provide plenty of inspiration for you and your children to choose meaningful charitable gifts for your loved ones that will support many worthy causes. Let the kids decide which kinds of gifts are most important to them and match a benefit with a gift recipient. Some of the suggestions also make appropriate gifts for children, and include the possibility of communicating with a sponsored child or support conservation efforts for a favorite wild animal. As an added bonus, the search for the perfect gift will spark discussion with your children and provide an opportunity to teach them a little bit more about the world.
Image: Susan Warner for Save the Children via Facebook
1. Save the Children
Save the Children is committed to a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development, and participation. Naturally, their charitable gifts closely relate to the issues that prevent children from achieving these goals: poverty, hunger, natural and humanitarian disasters, and lack of access to education and healthcare. In 2014, the organization helped more than 166 million children in 120 countries, including the United States. Save the Children offer 63 gifts you can make on behalf of a loved one, including farm animals, bicycles for health workers, community book banks and soccer balls. They are also one of the few charities to offer gift options for the sponsorship of a child, which starts at $30 per month. Sponsorship includes the opportunity to communicate with the sponsored child, which makes it a good option to consider as a gift to your own children. You can follow Save the Children’s #Givember holiday campaign on social media.
Image: Steve Bower via Shutterstock
2. World Wildlife Fund
Is your child fascinated by elephants, tigers, clown fish, great white sharks, or smitten with baby penguins? The World Wildlife Fund offers symbolic species adoptions for dozens of at risk or endangered species with proceeds supporting the WWF’s worldwide conservation efforts. This year they’ve introduced honeybee adoptions too! Most adoptions are available for $55, with some as little as $25. Recipients receive adoption certificates, photos and species cards, plus a plush toy for adoptions of $55 or more. They also offer gift adoption cards that allow the recipient to choose which species they want to adopt.
Image: Trees for the Future via Facebook
3. Trees for the Future
Trees for the Future works with communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America that have been threatened as a result of deforestation or drought. Their tree planting schemes are aimed at erosion control, soil restoration, developing sustainable agroforestry and preventing flooding through run-off control. Gift donations start from just $20, and $50 plants 500 trees! Unsurprisingly, e-gift certificates are sent to the recipient for free, while a paper certificate is an extra $5.
4. The Humane Society
If you have a beloved four-legged friend in your household, then the kids are sure to get behind this charitable gift idea. The Humane Society is the largest animal protection organization in the United States, and their mission is Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty. They offer gift donations from just $10, making it easy to spread the message about preventing animal abuse and neglect. The ASPCA is also a worthy organization working in this area, but recipients of their gift memberships must be 18 years of age or more.
Image: Right to Play
5. Right to Play
“While food, water and shelter are essential, so is a childhood.” That’s the fundamental ethos behind Right to Play. A gift of $50 enables a child to play for a year, with all the social, physical and educational benefits that come with that. Right to Play provides a structured program of educational games and sports activities that teach children about health and behavioral issues and that are tailored to the specific environment of their home community. The organization works with kids in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and North America.
Image: Oxfam America
6. Oxfam America
Oxfam America is one of 17 members of the well-known international Oxfam confederation, which works “to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger and injustice.” Oxfam’s online gift purchasing is streamlined and very user-friendly, and their gift cards are bright, bold and humorous. Their gift options are quite specific, which helps in tailoring a gift to its recipient, and they also have plenty of low-priced options (yes, for just $12 you could really give that pain-in-the-butt, entitled teenage nephew a pile of poop for Christmas!).
Image: World Bicycle Relief
7. World Bicycle Relief
A lack of access to transport can hamper even the simplest of activities. World Bicycle Relief gets people mobile in rural Africa by providing locally built bikes to students, entrepreneurs and healthcare workers. They state: “We envision a world where distance is no longer a barrier to education, healthcare and economic opportunity.” Bikes are provided via work-to-own and study-to-own programs, and the organization trains field mechanics to keep local communities rolling. A gift donation to this worthy cause would make a great holiday gift for any bike fiend in your life. The process for adding gift recipient details at the checkout is simple and you can email a card or download one and print it to present to your loved one.
8. The Gift of Giving
Can’t make up your mind which charity to choose? The Gift of Giving provides a platform to choose a gift donation amount, and then the recipient can decide which of hundreds of charities they’d like to support. Charity Choice is another site offering a similar service.
Don’t forget: December 1, 2015, is Giving Tuesday, a day to really give a boost to charitable causes. A number of the above organizations have received pledges to match donations made on that day, so if you want to double the impact of your charitable gift card, that is a good day to do it!