I am a person who loves the holidays, and loves to give gifts, as I recently shared in this post.
But when you’re buying Christmas gifts, what do you get for that person who has everything?
A friend of mine, Liz at Chief Mom Officer, recently wrote a wonderful post called I’m Sick of Christmas Materialism – Instead Let’s Make a Difference #ActsOfKindness. As much as I love gift giving, making a difference and helping others is what Christmas is truly about. Liz challenged bloggers to think of ways to help people in need this holiday season, and several fellow financial bloggers have taken up her call to action. A complete list of bloggers and their articles about ways to impact the lives of others and spread #actsofkindness this Christmas appear at the end of this post.
So if you have that hard-to-shop for person on your list, why not take an opportunity to give to others on his or her behalf? Every time someone gives to a charity on my behalf, I feel a warm glow. The Minimalists list this as their number 1 gift suggestion.
It really is better to give than to receive.
Below I’ve listed several of our favorite options for charitable giving this Christmas season.
The first time we received a charitable donation for Christmas, I was a teenager. My uncle gave us a card that said, “A flock of chicks has been given to a family in need in your honor.” I remember giggling over the thought, and then quickly reading more about Heifer International, the organization in question.
The website explains, “Giving an animal is like giving someone a small business, providing wool, milk, eggs and more. Animal donations can provide families a hand up, increasing access to medicine, school, food and a sustainable livelihood.”
The gift of chickens quickly became the most memorable of the year. I can’t tell you the other gifts my uncle gave me over the years, but I remember the chickens vividly. I loved the idea that a family in need would not just have donations to help them once, but a flock of animals from which they could receive eggs, meat, and income for many years.
When I was in high school, I went to Honduras as part of a medical mission team. The Hondurans who we helped wanted, more than anything else, education and tools that would help them improve their economy. They wanted to be taught farming practices and methods to produce more on their land. They wanted a way to help themselves, not just passively receive help.
Heifer International is an organization that gives families a way to make a living. With the gift of chickens, a heifer, a llama, or a sheep, a family has milk, wool, eggs, and meat to use and sell. They then pass their gift forward to help other families.
For a complete list of animals you can give, click here.
The Syria Fund
Just last year, the world watched in horror as Syrian refugees fled for their lives from the horrible Civil War that has racked their country for years. Now, millions of Syrians are displaced and living in really tough conditions in neighboring countries like Jordan and Lebanon, and all over Europe.
My friend, a Syrian immigrant herself, is the director of donor relations of The Syria Fund. This organization has done amazing things for displaced Syrians, including starting schools for them, providing emergency aid, and helping them achieve a sense of normalcy after so many years of unimaginable war.
Their mission is to provide “opportunities for refugee families to create a sense of normalcy after experiencing tremendous hardships over these last 6 years of conflict. In the face of this enormous humanitarian crisis, we focus our efforts on families living near Mafraq and Azraq – cities in Jordan with significant populations of Syrians living outside of UN-organized refugee camps. These families are underserved by large, mainstream aid organizations and The Syria Fund provides meaningful contributions to directly better their lives.”
My friend has traveled to Jordan several times to check in on the school, and seeing the pictures she’s brought back of happy little girls enjoying receiving an education is something to behold.
To donate to The Syria Fund on behalf of a friend or relative, click here.
Several years ago, a friend of mine was telling me what she was giving her grandsons this year. “I’m giving them each a globe and a gift card to Kiva.org. That way, as they’re deciding where to make a loan, they can look up where each person lives on the globe.”
“What is Kiva?” I asked, and quickly became acquainted with this excellent organization.
Kiva is an organization that connects those who need a micro loan to lenders. Those people pay the loan back, and then you can loan your money out to another individual. You’re completely in control of who you lend to, and where your loan goes. You’re also updated as your lendees pay the loan back (it’s a no-interest loan).
The year after my friend told me about the organization, Mr. ThreeYear and I gave the same gift to our boys–a globe and Kiva gift card. The great thing about the gift is it keeps on giving. We’ve used our gift card to help people sell fish in the Philippines, raise livestock in Cambodia, and open a salon on Lebanon.
To give a Kiva gift card, which will be snail-mailed to your house, click here.
Gift Cards for Shelters
I have another friend who’s started an organization in our area called WishList. It started as an email chain to help connect needy individuals with clothing that others no longer needed or wanted. In our cold New Hampshire winters, there are many kids who don’t have coats or warm boots, and they live very close to people with extra.
Soon after she started WishList, my friend partnered with a local women’s shelter for domestic abuse, and she began to expand her outreach to include furniture, kitchen items, and other goods to help abused families on the run set up their own apartments.
This year, Wish List has several families who need various supplies to get started after fleeing dangerous situations. Many times, mothers will flee with their children taking nothing but the clothes on their backs. That’s particularly hard this time of year, when mamas want to give their children Christmas presents and bring a bit of cheer to their lives after so much trauma.
Our organization is asking for gift cards, so families can pick out things they need. If your area has a local women’s shelter, it’s worth checking out if gift cards might be a good idea for a family in need this Christmas. What an awesome gift to receive, knowing your gift helped a family in such a vulnerable situation.
Liz, thanks again for the inspiration to compile a way to make this holiday season more about giving, and less about receiving.
Here’s the complete list of bloggers and their posts with ideas for #actsofkindness.
Here’s ChiefMomOfficer’s original post again – I’m Sick of Christmas Materialism Instead Let’s Make a Difference
And here is the chain of #actsofkindness posts:
Link 2: ForeignBornMD – Holiday Season, Giving Back
Link 3: Kiwi and Keweenaw Simplifying through #ActsofKindness – Kiwi and Keweenaw
Link 4: Physician on FIRE – A Quarter Million in DAFs: A Retirement Goal Achieved – Physician on FIRE
Link 5: Budget on a Stick – An Unexpected Gift #actsofkindness
Link 6: Working Optional – Thankful For What I Have Received
Link 7: Mama Fish Saves – Top Charities To Get Kids Involved In Giving
Link 8: Grounded Engineer – Giving Thanks and Why I’m Considering a Donor Advised Fund
Link 9: 99to1percent Giving Thanks and the 6 Gifts that Keeps Giving
Link 10: Sarah One Small Thing1
Link 11: Jenny The Best Thing You Can Give Your Family? Kindness
Link 12: Downsize Your 2080 Think Outside the Christmas Gift Box
Link 13: Spills Spot: Use Your Platform to Help Others
Link 14: Millionaire Doc – Volunteerism.