Do-Gooder Gifts for the Holidays: Personal As Well As Global

gifts of service, do-gooder gifts, donation gifts, gifts of love,
Conversation at Night by Margret Hofheinz-Döring

It feels great to give gifts. It feels even better to give one that does good.

You know what I mean, a donation that plants a tree, digs a village well, or trains a midwife in the name of your recipient. It’s a wonderful way to show love and respect. But quite often at the moment your friend is opening gifts at her shower or your family is gathered for the holidays, a card describing your very thoughtful gift just doesn’t seem very festive. It also may not fully convey the meaning you intend. Lets veer away from examining materialism and and the struggles so many of us have simply getting by. Lets simply talk about making these global gifts more personal.

It helps to connect the gift to what the recipient means to you. Why not protect endangered land for someone who grounds you? Donate baby chicks in the name of your favorite chick pals? Give the gift of vision in honor of someone who helps you see things in a new way?  Letting recipients know what they mean to you and why you chose a particular donation can be an integral part of the gift.

Sometimes it also helps to include a small symbolic present along with the real gift of your donation. The following gift pairings are suggestions to get you thinking as you consider the extraordinary possibilities these organizations offer.

Put a jar of dirt in a gift bag. Or tie a ribbon on a small potted tree. Include an acre ($50). Adopt An Acre is a land purchase program sponsored by The Nature Conservancy. So far it has protected 600,000 acres around the world from logging and other development. Your gift of $50 adopts an acre of land in danger of deforestation. The program sends the recipient of your gift a personalized certificate, a world map, a fact sheet, and more.

Present a homemade goodie, include a week’s worth of groceries for a struggling U.S. family ($45). Wrap baby booties, toss in a safe motherhood kit for women birthing at home in Haiti ($33). Tie a ribbon on a water bottle, provide a bike ambulance for African villagers ($36). Alternative Gifts International partners with established charities in the interest of a peaceful world community and environmental protection.

Tie a gift tag on a jar of local honey; add bees, a beehive, and training for new beekeepers ($30). Wrap up a chick flick, include a starter flock of chicks ($20).  Heifer International’s approach to ending world hunger has to do with life-sustaining gifts that expand on what the organization calls “unimaginable blessings.” For example, when one family receives a milk cow from Heifer International, they agree to give that cow’s first calf along with their own knowledge of animal husbandry to someone else in the community. The recipient of that calf makes the same agreement, and so on.

Give a reusable net shopping bag and toss in a life-saving bed net ($10). Nothing But Nets focuses on malaria prevention, a disease which kills over a million people (often small children) each year. The strategy is based on providing a type of bed net shown to reduce disease transmission rates up to 90%. Every donation provides a specially treated net and prevention education.

Tie a packet of seeds to a trowel, add the gift of heirloom seeds and gardening tools for a Native family ($50). Give a print of a beautiful scene, add the gift of vision restored to a blind person ($50). SEVA is a Sanskrit word for compassionate action. It gives donors an opportunity to share the honor of providing needed services in gift form.

Gift a photo of a girl you love, add protection for a formerly exploited child ($50). Wrap a package of pencils, add a backpack full of school supplies for a needy U.S. child ($30). Present a CD, add the gift of art and music instruction for a child ($20). World Vision sends direct assistance to projects benefiting oppressed or impoverished people in many countries around the world.

You might also enjoy making a donation locally. Consider what causes are dearest to the heart of your recipient and give a gift of your time or money to further that cause.

gifts of gratitude, gifts of service, random acts of kindness,
Hand by Fernando Castro Pacheco

Consider a charity clearinghouse when you have no idea of the recipient’s interests. A gift certificate to www.justgive.org allows your boss, your brother’s girlfriend, and that dear uncle whose politics you can’t fathom to donate to their own causes.

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Although the above organizations are known for reliability, remember to give wisely. The best programs allocate three-quarters or more of their budgets directly to programs rather than wasting resources on administration and fund-raising. They also operate on an open-book basis and consistently work toward their goals. Before donating to any cause, check them out. Go to Charity Navigator or the American Institute of Philanthropy’s Charity Watch.

And if you’re really inspired to do good, bring it on when it’s your turn to receive. Consider what a gift you can give others by asking friends and relatives to perform acts of kindness on your behalf instead of giving YOU presents. This woman requested 30 such gifts for her 30th birthday.

Laura is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and Free Range Learning, a handbook of natural learning. She lives on a small farm notable only for its lovestruck goose.