Author: Selina Andersson
Holidays are the time to instill your family's values into your children, and delivering a bonanza of gifts that give back to others is a wonderful way to accomplish this. Why not skip the long lines, reduce click-fatigue, save money, stay warm, help a good cause and live your family values out loud. Spend your holiday allowance to support the many wonderful adopt-an-animal programs, educational initiatives, and life-changing organizations that work around the world to improve the human condition.
Here are some organizations that our families support.
Adopt an Animal for the Holidays
Stumped for holiday gift ideas? Kids interested in taking care of animals? This holiday season, you won't actually have to feed and clean up after your child's new pet because many animal conservation programs send certificates and pictures instead of the actual animal in a symbolic adoption. Your kid will get to track their new adoptee, learn all about where it lives and how it survives. Best of all, it's incredibly affordable (unlike that new gaming console).
The World Wildlife Fund offers many opportunities to help protect endangered animals. For $50 to $1,000, your family can help conserve an elephant, polar bear, tiger, panda or snow leopard. For $55, you can adopt the animal of your choice and receive a plush toy, an adoption certificate, a photo, a species card and a gift bag. For $75, a "Bucket of Animals" which contains three to five plush toys, a photo, an adoption certificate and a species card in a bucket or appropriate container can be yours. Examples are a Tub of Cubs, a Bucket of Frogs an a Sea Life Bucket, or you can build your own. For $500 you will receive a new plush animal, certificate and informational material once a month throughout the year. Planning adventure travel? We love the option to select animals by destination to get to know them in advance.
A friend whose daughter is in love with snowy owls discovered that the Sierra Club has recently added snowy owls, sea otters, manatee and red fox to their collection of 17 animals species up for adoption. A $39 contribution includes a plush animal, a bookletwith interesting animal facts and a sticker; a $79 contribution also includes a backpack.
The Koala Preservation Society of New South Wales, Australia rehabilitates these cute animals when they're sick or injured and then re-releases them into the wild. Their Adopt-A-Wild-Koala program based in Port Macquarie starts at only AUS$35 (about US$25) and makes a great holiday or Christmas present. It includes a Certificate of Adoption with a picture of the koala, your child's name and the name of the koala, and the date of adoption on it. For AUS$50, you will also receive a story about your koala, a booklet about koalas a vinyl sticker and a bumper sticker. You, or your child, choose from 33 individual koalas to adopt and the adoption money will help rescue and treat the koalas. Visit Koala Hospital for more information on how to adopt one of these cuddly tree-climbers.
If you know a child who loves ocean animals, then adopting a sea turtle or manatee can be the ideal holiday present. Both of the following programs (adoption packages start at $25 - $30 respectively) include adoption certificates of these amazing creatures, pictures of the adopted animal, and handbooks or newsletters that make a sustainable and educational gift.
The Adopt-A-Manatee program at Save the Manatee also promotes sustainable kayak tours in central Florida to see the creatures up close. Adopt-A-Sea Turtle gifts animal lovers with a personalized kit from the Sea Turtle Conservancy, which has been doing this important work for more than 50 years. On their website, families can follow the turtles they are tracking by satellite.
Support Groups that Do Good
You can support many worthwhile non-profit groups whose work represents an incredible gift for all ages, all year long. At Oxfam Unwrapped, you can purchase any number of items that will be sent to people around the world who really need them. Everything from water to school fees, a $39 goat, or $95 for a goat, a duck and some seeds to a farmer and his family; to calves; to bees; to sheep and a veggie garden can be given as gifts. Your giftee will receive a very clever card that explains how your gift helps fight poverty.
Heifer International is another great charitable organization with a stronger focus on giving animals to impoverished people around the world. Their online holiday catalog is full of stories about heifers ($500) that helped families build new houses, sheep ($120) that provided warm coats for children in winter, and flock of chickens ($20) that fed them. Partial contributions from $10 and up are pooled with others to fulfill these needed gift items.
The World Vision Gift Catalog offers a similar program that funds hundreds of life changing, life-saving opportunities to help children and families. An ongoing gift, sponsor a child for $39 per month and, through correspondence, watch as the child and his/her community grow with your support. The Christian giving organization also offers more than 100 gifts for moderately priced donations such as $25 towards a clean water fund or $25 to purchase $300 worth of warm clothing for poor children in the U.S. The gift recipient in turn receives a special card describing the gift that was purchased and the impact it will have in the life of a person in need.
Your child can give a gift to another child through Save the Children. Choose from an online catalogue of items ranging from $15 (one soccer ball or four baby blankets) to $5,000 (Animals including multiple goats, sheep, cows, chicks and camels for a whole village). Categories include Animals, Education and Sports, Health and Emergency Funding, Water and Agriculture and more. Lots of other people on your list, including Grandma and Grandpa, will enjoy a gift given in their honor to help improve the lives of children and families in need around the world.
You can also support many worthwhile groups in a really big way, by signing up your family for a volunteer vacation. To be sure you're making the best choice for all ages, abilities and interests, read our "How to Volunteer" guide before reviewing all the organized tour options.
Give Back Sites, Flash Sales & Auctions for Good
Want to give back with your child? The site DonorsChoose.org, founded in 2000 by a High School teacher in The Bronx, NY, allows families to pick what type of school project, field trip, sports team, activity or need they want to support, then search the site's collection of requests that have been made by teachers around the United States.
To raise money for a variety of causes, upcoming projects, and non-profits, the online auction house at Bidding For Good can't be beat. It's so easy to use their Commerce for Charity system that grade schools can do away with bake sales, and youth groups or other organizations can upload their donated Major League Baseball tickets, Paris walking tours, or even Amazon giftcards so everyone can take part in the worthwhile bidding process. Thousands of happy customers and hundreds of thousands of bidders have found causes to support, whether in pursuit of stocking stuffers or major holiday presents, raising $351,754,861 for schools and non-profits.
Picture this. From Black Friday and Cyber Monday through late December, millions of people spend too much money on silly or trendy holiday toys, presents and gadgets that are lost, broken or disposed of by mid-year. (Unlike the frequent-traveler gifts in our holiday roundup.)
Don't use this holiday to give another unwanted gift that will soon be forgotten. Instead, help a good cause and let your child (or your nanny, or your neighbor, or your boss...) take part in changing the world. You can start on Giving Tuesday, the universal day of giving back following Cyber Monday, and keep shopping and contributing all year to a better world for all.
We guarantee that helping others will put a smile on anyone's face. And, don't forget... all these gifts are tax deductible.