15+ Ways to Give Back for the Holidays

Are you in the thick of holiday shopping? What if this year you replaced some of your store-bought gifts with charitable giving?

We spend an average of $700 apiece on holiday gifts every year. That adds up to billions of dollars across the U.S. just on this one holiday. Imagine the impact it would make if we diverted even a fraction of that money to charitable giving.

If you’ve never given charitable gifts for Christmas, it might feel a little bit strange at first. It might even seem preachy. I think that the key to making this sort of gift work is selecting the right charity. Got an animal lover on your list? Choose an animal rights organization or their favorite local rescue group. A foodie? Choose a charity that fights hunger. Just like with any other gift, you want your charitable gift to be something that speaks to the person you’re gifting.

This list of organizations is by no means all-encompassing, but I did try to find an array of organizations to match lots of different interests. If you don’t see a group below that feels right for your recipient, you can do a little googling or even ask your recipients if there are any non-profits they like that could benefit from some charitable giving.

15 Ways to Give Back for the Holidays

Many of the charitable giving organizations below are well-rated by the group Charity Watch. Some of the smaller groups aren’t rated by Charity Watch, but are still very worthy causes. If none of these groups spark your interest, I recommend checking out the Charity Watch Top Rated page to find groups that not only give back but do a good job managing donations, so that most of the money makes it to the people and animals who need it, rather than getting caught up in administrative costs.

1. Adopt a Turkey – Thanksgiving might be the main turkey-eating holiday, but those birds need our help all year round. For animal lovers on your list, consider a donation to Farm Sanctuary. You can adopt a turkey or make a general donation.

2. Global Hunger Project – Foodies on your list will appreciate knowing that someone got a good meal in their names.

3. Child’s Play – Any gamers that need gifts? Child’s Play is a charity started by gamers to give toys to children in hospitals. My husband is a gamer, and we donate to Child’s Play every year. This group is not rated by Charity Watch, but since your gift goes straight to the hospital, you can feel confident that your charitable giving isn’t going to waste.

4. Planned Parenthood – With so many cuts to this organization’s funding, Planned Parenthood needs our support now more than ever. This would be a great charitable gift in the name of any feminists on your list.

5. National Wheelchair Basketball Association – Need a charitable gift for a sports fan? Maybe they’d like to support this group that organizes a basketball league for kids and adults who otherwise wouldn’t be able to be involved in basketball.

6. Child Find of America – I can’t think of any parent that wouldn’t want to support this group that assists families with missing children.

7. Breast Cancer Research Foundation – Do you know any breast cancer survivors or family members of survivors? I bet that they’d appreciate a donation to this charity in their names!

Charitable Giving: Your Local Food Bank

Volunteering as a family at the local food bank is a great way to give back!

8. Your local food bank – Volunteering at the local food bank as a family is a great way to give back to the community and do something as a family around the holidays that isn’t about consumerism. Try googling the name of your town and “food bank” to find one near you. Most local food banks do not have Charity Watch ratings, and volunteering is a great way to see first hand how they manage donations.

9. Operation Homefront – Does anyone on your list sport a Support Our Troops sticker on their car? They’ll appreciate your donation in their name to this group that supports veterans in need of assistance.

10. Cedars Home for Children – Kids tend to like helping other kids, and Cedars does an amazing job helping at-risk children find safe homes.

11. Toys for Tots – This is another excellent group that parents will be especially happy to support. Toys for Tots is a U.S. Marine Corps program, so this might also be a good group for anyone on your list that’s in the military.

12. ACLU – Your activist friends will be happy to receive a donation to this advocacy group in their names!

13. Charity: Water – This is a worthy group that could work for many people on your list. Celebrities like Will Smith and Justin Bieber have donated their birthdays to Charity: Water, which I think might help you sell this one to teens and tweens on you giving list!

14. Rainforest Alliance – Nature lovers will appreciate a donation in their names to this group that does amazing work protecting our natural resources.

15. I Love Mountains – This is another great group for nature lovers that’s specifically working to stop the devastating effects of mountaintop removal mining for coal. I Love Mountains is too small for a Charity Watch rating but is an incredible group doing important work in Appalachia.

Of course, these organizations and so many like them need our support all year long. Charitable giving doesn’t have to only happen around the holidays, but during this time of year when we are more likely to open our wallets, I think it’s even more important to consider giving back.

Looking for even more donation pathways? Here are some inspiring Care2 partners whose causes you may want to join,  just in time for the holidays:

1. Defenders of Wildlife — You can choose to adopt a wide range of animals through Defenders of Wildlife, including snowy owls, bald eagles, humming birds and monk seals. Animal adoptions include personalized adoption certificates, colorful animal fact sheets, wildlife activities book, and a stuffed plush animal.

2. Women for Women International — Female survivors of war can’t recover without education, farming resources and job training. Women for Women International uses your donation to provide these priceless tools.

3. Humane Society Canada & Humane Society UK – From farm animals, to struggling wildlife, to lab animals enduring cruel testing — Humane Society Canada covers them all. Consider donating to help animals from all arenas.

4. ChildFund Australia – Help children reach their full potential. A school uniform, gardening tools or a lantern may seem like miscellaneous objects. To children with few resources, they are the mere basics of a bright future.

5. Compassion in World Farming – Sick and abused farm animals want to be on your holiday shopping list. Some sheep can’t move in their cages and are stacked on each other during transport, spreading disease and emotional trauma. Your donation will combat needless animal suffering.

6. Make-A-Wish® Foundation — A child with a life-threatening illness can see his or her dreams come true. Donors — along with volunteers and dedicated staff — are the reason these children’s wishes come to life.

7. Plan Canada — Social justice for children in developing countries: Who can argue with that? Help uplift suffering communities by supporting the children who need it most.

8. Oxfam Australia — Give communities the tools to create their own solutions to poverty. This is how we break the cycle so future generations have access to jobs, education and social justice.

9. War on Want – Stand with the Palestinian people in their quest for basic rights. Ethnic cleansing in Palestine is robbing people of their homes and safety. Supporting War on Want’s vision means fueling global justice, and providing aid to those losing their livelihoods to political turmoil.

10. Ecojustice – Toxic pesticides and chemicals have no place in thriving communities. Contribute to environmental protections that safeguard the air, water and outdoor spaces neighborhoods’ depend on.

Do you have a favorite organization for charitable giving that you like to support? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

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Magdalena J.
Past Member 3 years ago

Thank you!

Carrie-Anne Brown
Carrie-Anne B3 years ago

thanks for sharing :)

4 years ago

Just try to find a charity that doesn't keep a high percentage of your donation for administrative costs and the huge bonus the CEO takes home every year.

If you donate to local charities, you can see your money in action....or donate food to the animal shelters and food banks...then you KNOW your money is being put to good use!

Susan T.
Susan T4 years ago

I know this is after the holidays, but my extended family picks a charity to donate to or this year we all got items for a family in the area who was in need. There are always ways you can make the holidays more meaningful.

and be more caring and loving to all.

Kathy G.
Kathy G4 years ago

Wildlife Conservation Network www.wildnet.org They directly help field conservationists with fuunds and helps teach them how to network and fundraise. Current projects help snow leopards, elephants, painted dogs, samll exotic cats, cheetahs, okapi, lions and more.

Janis K.
Janis K4 years ago

Thanks for sharing, great comments too.

Manuela C.
Manuela C4 years ago

I contribute to charity over the year, but always do an extra this season.

Salvador M.
Salvador M4 years ago

All good recommendations :)

Sheri J.
Sheri J4 years ago

Tip: Please donate to your local food pantry in your area. Do not donate to food banks because food pantries purchase their goods from food banks and food banks make profits. Whereas, food pantries work directly with the community and most of the workers are volunteers.

Sheri J.
Sheri J4 years ago

Give green stars to random Care2 members is a great way to help them accumulate butterfly credits to donate to the cause of their choice.