There are a million
worthy causes out there to give to all year long. A great website
called Charity Navigator
helps you find organizations specific to your cause or located close
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 card 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 the
USO or Purple Heart
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 instance.
3. Invest a little time.
Small gifts -such as an ornament or loaf of sweet 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 lucky recipient!
5. Get Together.
Along with your donation cards, invite folks over to a charity party
in honor of whatever important cause you choose. Encourage party
goers to donate in return as a gift to the host.
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 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 or
Humane Society makes a great gift
for an animal lover.
Give a donation to Purple Heart
or the U.S.O. along with a small
gift wrapped in patriotic colors, or something American like apple
pie. Don’t forget to include your donation card along with a note of
heartfelt thanks for their service and sacrifice.
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
Donate to the Sierra Club,
Defenders of Wildlife. Many
of these organizations will already give you a gift or magazine
subscription along with your donation, but if you want to include
something else- why not a reusable canvas tote bag or a tree sapling
( to replace all those Christmas trees that were chopped down! )
Whether someone survived
prostate 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
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!
Firefighter: 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.
donation to the NEA
Foundation, a charitable branch of the National Education
Association, is a great gift to someone in the education field. Wrap
up your donation with something for the classroom- since most
teachers pay out-of-pocket for extras like stickers and room
gift of fairly-traded coffee or a travel journal along with a
donation to any number of international relief organizations such as
UNICEF makes a super
This is a super fun idea to do with your friends- guys and gals
alike! Take a trip to your neighborhood toy store than 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
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 ‘present!’ 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!
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
Last year I 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 Christmas
miracle to talk about for years to come!
Time is one of
our most precious gifts! …and is more meaningful and than anything
you could wrap up and put under the tree.
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
neighbor has kids in Boy Scouts, for instance, make a commitment to
help out with an upcoming activity. Or if you know someone who
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 deal
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.
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!
Personal Chef for a
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 night out alone.
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.
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
Before it’s forgotten, capture the story of your family. Using
timelines, old photographs and maps, tell your grandchildren 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
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.
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.
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.
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
Who couldn’t use some this time of year?!.. Using rolls of plain
colored paper that you can purchase a 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 many computer programs these days.
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!
For the more computer savvy, compile a CD of your favorite tunes–
Christmas or otherwise– and decorate the cover!