Gifts that Keep On Giving

For those of us who are fortunate enough to have the financial means to add an extra touch of generosity to our holiday gift list, I strongly urge that we do so. This year there is an extra arsenal of gifts that keep on giving. In addition to the usual charitable donations that remain close to our heart, with the extra money we save on our bargain purchases we can be thrifty and generous at the same time. We can still comb the aisles for the perfect gift for those we care about and donate and make a difference in someone’s life and even the world.

Charitable gift cards are relatively new and are all the rage. They are similar to their more established cousins in the retail sector only, the giver goes to one of the multiple websites specifically set up for charitable giving, and sometimes pays a small transaction fee, and then chooses a recipient and gift amount. Recipients receive either an email or a plastic gift card directing them to the site where they can seek charities that appeal to them and apply their selected gift to one or more groups. The system sends an email to the gift-giver about where the recipient donated the money. The term good gifting has become associated with this process. Tis Best and NetworkForGood are two examples of charity gift card sites. There are many others.

One of my personal favorite charities is Donor’s Choose. This organization rolled a number of smaller charities under its larger umbrella and has become a powerful force. It enables individual donors to bypass sometimes unwieldy organizations and tons of paperwork by simply bypassing the middle person. Its purpose is to fund class projects for needy kids. You choose the subject, grade and price. Simply, a teacher asks a request for the class’s needs on the website and you give to the class and project of your choice. And of course you get to know how the money was spent and the progress of a particular project.

At the other end of the age spectrum, Arts For the Aging, a little known but very active organization, is another one of my personal pet projects t that holds meaning for many FiftyAndFurthermores. AFTA is an organization that provides artistic services to impaired seniors in day care centers and not-for-profit nursing homes in the metropolitan Washington area. (Full disclosure necessitates my telling you I am on their board.) However, I donate my time and economics as I love the work they do. is partnering up with CURE International, a nonprofit that helps fund surgeries for young people in developing countries to decorate their infirmaries worldwide. You buy a piece of artwork, and then can match it to a hospital. is a nonprofit that offers one-of-a-kind handcrafted offerings from women around the world. Objects range from pottery to jewelry. All proceeds are pooled into a fun that distributes loans to the needy artisans who sell on the website until they’ve earned enough to pay back the micro-loans and make their own living. Some American designers also sell on the site and donate 25% of their profit to the effort.

Pillow Dreams Project consists of female weavers in small villages in Vietnam, Thailand and South Africa. They sell their textiles to fair trade organizations who turn them into pillows. The profits go to two kids’ charities: Know One, Teach One (housing and job training for homeless teens in Vietnam) and Open Arms Malawi (a home for infants orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.)

And for those of you who want to give out of the box, think rats. APOPO is a Belgian based organization that trains sniffer rats to save human lives. The APOPO rats are primarily used for landmine and UXO clearance. They have been known to have a 100 percent success rate and are credited with saving hundreds of lives in places as far off and often forgotten as Mozambique. This new technology is also being tested to detect TB bacteria in human sputum samples.

If disrespected rodents can help save the world, then so can we.

Previously Published in 2008