I love hearing people say that they want to start giving back, and the holiday season is a wonderful time to do so— especially because you can share the joy of helping others with all the people on your list.
Organizations like food banks and homeless shelters are always looking for donations to keep people warm and fed during the cold season. There are shelters that only operate during the winter months, too, and all of these places are often in need of canned goods, volunteers, clothes, blankets, and so much more.
My gift guide from last year suggests tailoring the charitable organizations you pick for your friends or family to match their interests and then pairing your donation with a little present to turn it into the perfect Christmas present (example below). This year, I highlight some other gift guides that give back and some worthwhile organizations.
For the writer in your life:
Give: Girls Write Now provides mentoring and writing instruction to at-risk girls in New York city; 826 National has tutoring centers around the country and helps under-resourced students improve their creativity and writing skills.
Pair it with: I love this One Line A Day five-year memory book. It chronicles five years on one page, so you can easily look back and see the one line summary of what you did on that same day the year before; Rifle Paper Co’s three-pack of botanical notebooks; personalized gold leather dictionary.
The New York Times put out a list of food-related gifts in 2010 from places that either give a portion of the proceeds to charity or employ people in need.
An organization not mentioned in the list above, Blue Sky Inn, works with homeless youth in Chicago, providing them with on-the-job training at Blue Sky Bakery. Blue Sky focuses on vocational training, but people who are going through GED training or have received a high school diploma or equivalent earn more than employees without. I host a Mother’s Day brunch for 12 or so moms and their families and would love to give cutely packaged granola from a place like this as favours.
Here are Nick Kristof’s choices for “Gifts That Say You Care”— a selection of lesser-known organizations that you may be interested in supporting.
A portion of the proceeds of each item on this Mint Design Blog gift guide benefits a charity. They made an Oxfam-themed list last year, from which you can donate art supplies or blankets, help train a midwife, etc.
Mercy Corps highlights 21 ways that $50 (or less) can be used to help people** through their organization. These include opening a tea stall, vaccinating a child, providing water for irrigation and drinking or animals for food and transportation, and so many more.
First Book, which provides books to children who may not otherwise have much access to them, compiled a list of companies who are donating some profits from their holiday sales to the organization. Build-A-Bear Workshop and skin care company Philosophy are on the list.
25% of all proceeds from Gaga’s Workshop at Barney’s will benefit Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, which focuses on youth empowerment and equality. The workshop sells everything from fake eyelashes and sunglasses to limited edition childrens’ books (Matilda!), plush monster toys, and Lady Gaga Nutcracker Cookies (seriously).
The NEGA Food Bank has a wonderful program called Food 2 Kids that sends kids who are at risk of going hungry over the weekend home from school on Fridays with brown paper bags full of healthy food for meals. I volunteered with this program and the food bank itself when I lived in Athens, GA, and can’t say enough great things about it. I made a lump-sum donation to F2K with the intention of “breaking it up” into smaller increments and writing little notes mentioning that a donation has been made to the organization to pair with homemade baked goods for my neighbours and family friends.
Sevenly designs gorgeous shirts and donates $7 from each one to a different charity every week. It is so hard for me to resist buying two or three of these a month! Please take a minute to look at the ones they’ve done in the past here. They are all truly beautiful.
**Note: Many organizations say that the money you donate goes toward a specific purpose (meals for ten children, a soccer field, etc), but usually the money goes into a general fund and these things are just examples of how it could be spent. It is important to look into charities before you give to see what percentage of your donation goes to overhead costs, as well as to ensure that you are familiar with the values of the non-profit— some tout specific religious or social views with which you may not agree.
I would love to hear about your favourite charities as well!