In this season of gift giving and giving thanks, alternative giving is gaining in popularity as a way to show you care to those hard-to-shop-for people on your list. Donation gifts are also an easy way to signify your commitment to giving back to the world after being blessed with so much yourself.
Here’s a roundup of a few non-profits that are a little more personable than the norm, while ensuring they make a big impact for those who need it most. Think of it as interactive giving, with organizations that let you be more involved than just clicking a “pay” button on a website. Some of these are great for kids, too!
Kiva - kiva.org
Kiva works throughout the world with financial institutions to provide micro loans to impoverished individuals. This money helps fund what they need for their businesses, whether it be pigs, clothing, or seeds. The money is repaid according to a schedule, and you can choose to withdraw it or reinvest it to help fund another project. This is called micro financing, and it has steadily gained in popularity in recent years with the first microfinancer winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
Donors Choose – donorschoose.org
This nonprofit is a clever and focused idea that helps fund the future right in our own backyard. Public and charter school teachers from around the nation post projects they’d like funded for their classrooms and donors fulfill the needs. The minimum donation is $1, and donors get to see how each project funded reaches the mostly impoverished schools and directly influences the students. Current projects include a projector to update an English as a Second Language classroom, trombones for band class, project display boards for science fair projects, and a new parachute for a gym class. Oprah called it “a revolutionary charity,” and Stephen Colbert and Adam Lambert have also championed this cause created by a high school history teacher.
CharitySub – charitysub.org
If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of charities out there, this site is the perfect solution. First, you commit to a simple $5 donation every month. Three charities focused on the same cause are researched and then highlighted monthly by CharitySub, and you simply pick one to receive your donation. The nonprofit then reports back on the combined impact CharitySub users have made for that cause. This month’s cause is Returning Veterans, for example, and past causes have included childhood obesity, sustainable fishing, bullying, and working dogs.
Numana – numanainc.com
One person every 6 seconds dies from hunger, amounting to 25,000 people each day. Numana’s mission is to save the starving by hand-packing and shipping nutritious meals around the world for those who don’t have enough food to sustain them. The organization takes donations from anyone, but it also lets participants become directly involved by packaging the meals themselves during special volunteer events. Another similar charity to this is Meals from the Heartland, and food banks like the Greater Chicago Food Depository also work to pack and distribute food to hungry people here in America using volunteer help.
Wears My Shirt – wearsmyshirt.com
Wears My Shirt is like the charity 2.0 version of philanthropy. It starts with a unique t-shirt bought by yourself or as a gift for someone else, providing money for well-deserving charities. But this is only the beginning. Besides acting as a walking advertisement for the charity, each shirt comes with a code. Enter this online and connect with others also raising money for the charity. Upload photos, videos, and info on individual fundraisers for the charities for the online community to see, and help spread the word through social media. This gets others involved with a goal to create a bigger opportunity for fundraising. Charities like Caddies 4 Cure, Soles4Souls, and Susan G. Komen benefit from Wears My Shirt’s efforts.
With so many charities in existence today, there’s sure to be one that speaks to what is important to your gift recipient while fitting your budget. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which one deserves your dollar, but taking just a little time to research them or using a site like CharityNavigator.org or GuideStar.org can help. Also, many sites are now hosting “gift card” donations, so recipients of an alternative gift can designate how they’d like their gift money spent. This holiday season, don’t forget others less fortunate than you who can benefit greatly from even the smallest donation.