I love giving presents so much that I’m infamous among family and friends for coercing people into opening their gifts as soon as I buy them—sometimes even weeks before a birthday or Christmas.
But presents rarely live up to expectations: the promise of artistic wrapping paper, shiny ribbons, and a mysterious shape too often give way to boring ties, frumpy bathrobes, or laborious-to-read books.
Each year, despite my love for giving presents, I’ve become more and more disgruntled by the commercialism of the holiday season. Now that I have a young son, it’s more crucial to me that I fight the insipid commercialism of our culture and find ways to give in a more meaningful and lasting manner. I know I want my son to be more excited about having a heifer purchased in his name than a video game, or new pajamas, or another Elmo toy.
Below are some organizations that let you donate to important causes on behalf of others.
Heifer International: Through Heifer International, you can give a family a source of food for the long-term, instead of fleeting relief in the form of money. Through this organization, you can purchase a heifer, sheep, llama, water buffalo, goat, or a flock of chicks. Millions of families in 128 countries have received life-changing gifts through this organization.
ONE The Campaign to Make Poverty History: Instead of buying your loved ones clothing that will be tossed out when the next fad arrives, purchase ONE campaign t-shirts on the Web site. There are also white bands and snazzy water bottles that would make great stocking stuffers.
Rainforest2Reef: Rainforest2Reef is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of land in Mexico and Central America that stretches from the rainforest of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve to the Mesoamerican Reef. For $45, you can save a hectacre of rainforest in someone’s name.
Pro Mujer: For your loved ones who champion women’s rights, you can give to Pro Mujer in their name. Pro Mujer is an international microfinance and women’s development network with a mission to help Latin America’s poorest women by providing microfinance, business training, and healthcare support. It is a well-run organization: Rita Foley, chairman of the Pro Mujer Board of Directors, just won the National Association of Corporate Directors 2007 award for Not-for-Profit Director of the Year.
JustGive.org: The Web site is a phenomenal resource for shopping for charity gift certificates. You can shop for a gift certificate from more than 1,000 charities in nineteen categories—and JustGive does research on the front end to vet the nonprofits for you. If your child wants to create a Christmas “wish list,” you might suggest she create a gift registry on JustGive.org.
Project Concern International: Send an eCard to someone announcing that you’ve just purchased, in their name, a water tank for a community ($100) or a round of immunizations for a child ($20) or support for a community shelter ($40). Project Concern International is a forty-five-year veteran in preventing disease and providing access to clean water and food around the world.