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Donation Gifts

There are a million worthy causes out there to give to all year long. With a little online research, you can find organizations specific to a cause or located close to home.

Not everyone likes giving donations as gifts. “There’s nothing to wrap up and put under the tree!” or “ It’s the easy way out!” are some common reactions. But you can do more than give a boring note saying 'A donation was made in your honor in the amount of $50.'

There are fun and creative solutions to contributing much-needed funds to a worthwhile cause while celebrating this special time or year.  Here are some tips to make giving a donation gift that’s thoughtful and fun:

1. Donate to a cause important to them.
We all have our favorite causes, but with so many deserving organizations out there, donate to a cause that the gift receiver will truly appreciate. Think about the things that are important to them- not you- and find an organization that reflects those values. For instance, if your co-worker is an animal lover, give a donation to a local animal shelter. Or if your uncle served in the Army, consider a contribution to a Veteran's organization.

2. Personalize your donation.
Don’t let the tax-deductible acknowledgement letter serve as the gift. Write a card telling your friend or relative that you made a donation in their name. In addition, tell them why. Letting your parents know that they helped make all your dreams come true is a wonderful preface to a gift for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, for example.

3. Invest a little time.
Small gifts -such as an ornament or loaf of banana bread- in addition to your donation card- makes for fun gift giving, and leaves behind a little reminder of you! No matter how selfless one might be, everyone loves to unwrap something.

4. Plan ahead.
Plan early on with friends, relatives or co-workers and decide together to give a donation gift this Christmas. Meet for lunch and pick out which charity will be the fortunate recipient!

5. Get Together.
Along with your donation acknowledgements, invite everyone over to a party in honor of whatever important cause you choose. Encourage party goers to donate to the charity in return as a gift to the host. Afterall, dinner and drinks for a $20-$30 donation is still a great deal! For those of us that like entertaining, this is always a fun way to give!

6. Photos Add Fun.
Photos of your actual donation items create smiles and add a personal touch to your announcement of the donation gift. For instance, if you’re donating to a needy family in lieu of gifts, include photos of your children modeling the new clothes that a family will soon be receiving. Or cut out pictures from a sales circular of all the fun toys you will be donating to Toys for Tots this year.

7. Don’t Just Sign the Card.
A thoughtful donation goes even further with a personal touch. When signing the card, don’t just write your name. Rather, tell the person how the gift reflects them. For instance, ‘Mom, you always made Christmas time so wonderful growing up, I just wanted to pass on the love to someone else.’ or ‘Having you as a friend is the best gift anyone can ask for...here’s hoping this donation adds joy to someone’s life– as you’ve done for mine.’

OK, so maybe creativity is not your forte. Here are some cause-specific ideas to help get you thinking in the right direction:

Alumni: Make a donation to your friend or loved one’s college  or high school alma mater. Or if you know someone whose son or daughter is going to that school, that can be a very thoughtful gift idea too. Package up your donation card with anything showing the school’s colors or emblem: a box of candy, a book, a sweatshirt.

Animal Lover: A small bag of pet treats along with a check to a local animal shelter makes a great gift!

Armed Services: Give a donation to any number of worthwhile Veteran organizations along with a small gift wrapped in patriotic colors. Don’t forget to include your donation card along with a note of heartfelt thanks for their service and sacrifice.

Cooking Enthusiast: Wrap up a handful of kitchen utensils or a fresh herb plant along with a donation to a local soup kitchen or any number of organizations that feed the hungry.

Health Foundations: Whether someone survived breast cancer, or lost someone to ALS, a donation to a help find a cure will surely mean a lot. Give your donation along with a candle which represents the light of hope.

New Born Baby: Celebrate a healthy baby's first Christmas by giving generously to any number of medical programs: St Jude Children's Research Hospital, or Children’s Miracle Network. One of my friends gave personal endorsement to the awesomeness of the Ronald McDonald House program. Why not include some restaurant coupons with your SUPER SIZED donation!

First Responders: If you have friends or family member in public service, consider a donation to the local Fraternal Order of Police or volunteer fire department. Include some home-baked cookies to share with everyone at the station.

Traveler: A gift of fairly-traded coffee or a travel journal along with a donation to any number of international relief organizations makes a super statement!


Fun Ways to Give

Get Shopping! This is a super fun idea to do with your friends- guys and gals alike! Take a trip to your neighborhood toy store- then let out your inner child! Look at all the toys that you had as a kid and have fun exploring new toys and games. Whether you’re with 2 friends or 20, pick the friend you are ‘buying’ for, then assign a time limit to pick out a gift for the 9-year-old version of this person. When time is up, meet back at checkout and have a good laugh over all the toys you picked out for each other. Then purchase them and drop them off at a Toys for Tots collection center or another worthy organization that might be collecting new toys. This is also a great project to do with children as long as they understand they do not get to keep the toys!… but it is a great way to preview what they might put on their list to Santa!

Giving Trees. Many organizations sponsor giving trees for needy families, such as the Angel Tree program from the Salvation Army. Giving trees are decorated with ornaments that tell you about the family member, their age, and what they need. Grab a handful of ornaments along with a handful of friends and hit the mall!… don’t forget to include lunch. The end result is a wonderful afternoon with friends and knowing that you have helped a family have a wonderful Christmas.

Host a Party! What’s a better gift than getting together with all your friends and loved ones?… send out invitations and let your guests know that their ‘presence’ will be their ‘presents!’  But have a really fun theme that allows folks to chip in cash: a poker tournament, Bunko, Casino night, or even a gingerbread-building tournament. Gather up all the money you’ve earned and donate it to an organization- or drop it in those little red buckets next to the bell-ringers!

Capital Campaigns. Schools, churches even stadiums often have capital campaigns that honor the donors in public ways. Remember the brick campaign to build the Atlanta Olympic Stadium? Somewhere my family's name is permanently etched in that city's landscape. Dedicating everything from a book to a bench or - heck!- an entire hospital wing if you got the cash!- is a touching and ever lasting gift to someone.

Big Tipper. I once heard on the radio a story about a family whose holiday tradition was to go to a Waffle House every December and leave the server a $100 bill. I LOVED this idea. Can you imagine the absolute astonishment on that person’s face to get a 400% tip?! OK, so it's not a charity, but chances are this person could use the money and $100 is more money than he or she might make in several days. Spread the holiday magic to a complete stranger and give them a small Christmas miracle to talk about for years to come!








Gifts of Time

Time is one of our most precious gifts! …and is more meaningful and than anything you could wrap up and put under the tree.

Volunteer your talents.
Keeping your friends and family in mind, think of meaningful ways you can give them your time instead of a gift or donation. If your friend or neighbor already volunteers for a charity, tell them you’d like to help out too. You’d be surprised how a gift that seemingly costs nothing is priceless to someone else.

Use the Buddy System.
Go in with a friend and decide that in lieu of gifts this year, you’ll take on a volunteer project together– whether a one-time event volunteering for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer or a weekly commitment at the soup kitchen– you’ll be serving others while committing to spending time together.

Helping Hands.
Give coupons for anything from shoveling snow to pet sitting, babysitting or hemming a pair pants- whatever your area of expertise is. I’m sure others will appreciate your willingness to share. Perfect for kids and adults alike. Just don’t fall prey to the statistic that 40% of all gift cards go unused. Make sure to follow-up and have your coupons redeemed! I recently washed and detailed my mom's car as a birthday gift for her- she so appreciated it and never would have been able to do this for herself.

Personal Chef for a Day.
Know someone who never seems to find the time to cook? Or a working mother of 3 that is simply exhausted by the end of her work day? Or due to illness of disability it’s difficult for them to cook meals? Instead of hosting dinner at your place, plan on stopping in one night with a home cooked meal. Get there early and have the smells wafting from the sidewalk- now that's a reason to get home!

Parents Night Out.
Host a movie night at your place and give all of your parent friends a date night!

Gifts of Writing

You don’t need a Pulitzer Prize to make your writing a gift worthy of giving. Here are some creative ways to give the gift of words.

Recipe Book.
Gather up your family favorites– or ones you know the gift receiver will love. Decorate with pictures, stickers, or ribbon– and be sure to leave blank pages for tasty recipes that might come your way later.

Family History.
Before it’s forgotten, capture the story of your family. Using timelines, old photographs and maps, tell your children or grandchildren, nephews or coursins about the relatives that came before them– it’s a gift that becomes even more valuable with age.

“I remember” poem.
Begin every line with “I remember” and fill it with a lifetime of memories– the more vivid the better. ‘I remember our first day of school when we wore the same outfit.... I remember standing in awe at the sight of the Grand Canyon,' and so on. This is a great gift to give to parents, spouses, siblings or lifelong friends. It can be full of hilarious memories or -trust me- it can be a tear jerker! You might want to frame it or put it on a plaque to serve as a daily reminder.

Make your own Audio Books .
Create your own family heirloom by recording some favorite children’s classics. This way you can read to your children or grandchildren even when you can’t be there to tuck them in.

Favorite Quotes.
Fill a box with inspirational quotes or scripture passages that can be pulled out as needed- like a treat in a cookie jar. You might be able to come up with enough for every day of the year!… and feel free to make up a few quotes of your own.

A Box of Compliments. Believe it or not, I really HAVE given this as a gift on more than one occasion! Sounds corny, I know… but hey, I am the gal that just wrote a book about a naked snowman afterall!… Seriously though, there is no better way to start every day than reading something nice someone wrote about you. So don’t be shy to say how you really feel about someone! If you’re really ambitious, you can do a Compliment-a-day. Don’t worry about coming up with 365 unique things… you can double or triple up if you must. Or go in with other friends or co-workers.

Gifts from the Home

Not everyone has the time or talent to knit a sweater or bake dozens of cookies, but here are some fairly simple gifts that anyone can do– all it takes is a little time on your part. Give these gifts along with a donation or on their own.

Photo scrapbook
Dig up photos from the past year or past 20 years and arrange them in a pretty keepsake. The memories alone will last the whole year through and then some- now THAT's a gift that keeps on giving!

Wrapping Paper
Who couldn’t use some this time of year?!.. Using rolls of plain colored paper that you can purchase at most craft stores or paper supply places, decorate your one-of-a-kind gift with stamps, stickers, fancy writing and even enlist your children’s help.

Decorate a blank calendar with artwork, photos, or jokes. You can print a blank template from several different design programs.

Note Cards or Stationary
This always makes a great gift since January is a time to write out your ‘Thank You’ letters. You can buy the blank card sets for very little money– and how you want to decorate them is up to you!

House plant or herbs
You can generate new house plants from cuttings of your existing ones or plant fresh herbs from seeds. It takes some early planning, but with a hand-painted pot, this gift is sure to be hit!

Music CD or playlist
Compile a CD of your favorite tunes– Christmas or otherwise– and decorate the cover! Or, give a gift card for music downloads along with a list of your 'top ten' list!