It is holiday time once again; time for celebration, reflection and the giving of gifts. This year’s gifting feels particularly challenging because of our volatile economy and the resulting impact on people we care about: what is an appropriate gift for someone who was laid off from work; someone who experienced foreclosure; or someone who lost a large portion of their retirement savings? And how do we manage the expense of these gifts to fit within our tightening budgets?
While there are no “right” answers, there are several gift options that support worthy causes and our community.
One strategy is to make a charitable donation in the name of the gift recipient. Easing the way to connect with local non-profit organizations, Gift It Up organizes an annual alternative gift fair and website that lists specific programs in need of support. Changing the Present offers similar donation opportunities world-wide.
For those who need a more tangible gift, purchase items from non-profit organizations directly. South Africa Partners provides one book for a South African child each time one purchases a children’s book through Masifunde Sonke, Let Us Read Together. Artists for Humanity has a wonderful online store featuring the paintings, postcards, T-shirts, bags and other items produced by youth in its programs. Roots & Shoots, a program of the Jane Goodall Institute, offers delicious coffee and chocolate products, sustainably produced to support of indigenous communities.
One World also provides an excellent list of nonprofits offering interesting products and publications. Co-op America’s National Green Pages™ lists nearly 3,000 businesses that have made firm commitments to sustainable, socially just principles, including the support of sweatshop-free labor, organic farms, fair trade and cruelty-free products.
The Cultural Survival Bazaar hosts fair-trade events around New England that give indigenous artists from around the world the chance to sell their work directly. They also expose 30,000 Americans each year to indigenous food, music and culture, and give visitors a chance to talk with indigenous artists.
Other gifts represent the interests of non-profit organizations. For example, Dancing Deer’s Sweet Home Project offers delicious baked items with proceeds supporting nonprofit One Family in its efforts to reduce family homelessness. Every purchase made with the Boston Community Change card at the 150+ participating businesses supports not only our local economy, but also a non-profit organization of my choice. Alternatively GoodSearch, via its GoodShop program, alerts its business affiliates to donate a portion of my sale to a nonprofit of my choice.
While this year’s gifting does present a special set of challenges, it also creates a special opportunity to be even more thoughtful in choosing gifts that support our values and our broader community.