Give Back While Doing Your Gift Giving This Holiday Season

We are approaching the biggest shopping season of the year. Despite being in a recession, holiday spending is on the rise. Over a third of Americans will spend almost $800 this season on gifts, and the average American shopper will spend $107 on themselves! (statistics courtesy of Mashable)

I know my family is going to adopt the new tradition of Giving Tuesday and we are looking for more ways to give back. Why not consider funneling some of your holiday spending into gifts that give back? Here are almost two dozen ways for you to give back while gift giving.

If you need holiday gifts or cards, the UNICEF store has a wide variety of unique items. They carry non-denominational cards and fun educational toys.


At The Nest of the Sparrow Fund, you can purchase jewelry of handmade beads as well as animals stitched by hand by refugee women currently living in Kenya, women broken from war and HIV, caring for orphans in their community, but made whole together.They have a cute selection of jewelry and toys. All proceeds go first to the women in Africa who make the jewelry and then to The Sparrow Fund to support adoptive families here.


Have you heard of Plant A Fish? They empower and educate local communities through the action of “re-planting” aquatic species of plants and animals in environmentally stressed areas to make a positive impact. You can “plant a fish” as an unusual gift, especially for the recipient that loves water, fishing, boating or aquatics.


This fun and patriotic-colored bracelet will help support the Dup15Q Alliance, an organization that supports families and research for Dup15Q, a rare chromosome disorder that results in multiple disabilities.


If you still haven’t found quite what you’re looking for, visit DoGoodBuyUs, an entire website devoted to products that support charities. Groupon will also have similar promos running on their website.


RED is working towards an AIDS-free generation by 2015. They have a very cool assortment of items that are, duh, red! Check out their tech section if you have a techy in your family.


Mikayla’s Voice is a wonderful little non-profit dedicated to sharing the benefits of inclusion and inclusive practices, so that the younger generations have a greater appreciation for and friendships with people with disabilities. The Mikayla’s Voice online store has very cute books and other items that helps promote this vision. There’s a book written and illustrated by third-graders, inclusion themed silly bandz and a very cute ladybug pendant with one different colored spot. “She may be different, but she’s just as beautiful as any ladybug!” What a great message!


When in doubt of what charity your gift receiver would like to help, give the gift of giving with GlobalGiving. You choose a dollar amount for a gift card, and your recipient gets to choose where they want that donation to go. You can even add Global Giving to your Amazon wish list!


Imagine being able to give the gift of employment! How cool would that be? With Benevolent, you can. Individuals with one-time needs post narratives and videos about themselves and their needs. Each of these needs has a correlating validating statement and video posted by a nonprofit professional who knows the person and his or her need. Many of the requests are job-related equipment or training, so you can potentially help someone find a job!


Water, it sounds like a silly holiday gift, doesn’t it? Yet millions of people go without safe, clean drinking water every day. Give a gift card and 100% of the proceeds will go to clean water projects.


Cathy’s Creations Cause Jewelry offers some really cute pieces of jewelry that helps bring awareness and remembrance to many causes such as SIDS, blind/visual impairments, foster parenting and Alzheimer’s just to name a few. Two of my favorites are the “Be Brave” sexual abuse awareness pendant and the “Just as I am” autism awareness pendant. And every year she helps raise funds for the Children’s Hospital of Boston. is always a popular choice. You can either donate directly to a project in remembrance or honor of someone, or they have cute shirts and totes that help the cause too. The best part is that you get to choose the educational project to fund!


For the oenophile in your family or circle of friends, introduce them to One Hope Wines. Half of the profits go to charity and the wines are crafted in cooperation with vintners like Robert Mondavi Jr.


Healthy Child, Healthy World is an organization dedicated to empowering parents to protect their kids from harmful chemicals. They have a gold or silver pendant that says “No one can do everything. Everyone can do something!” that makes a nice, inspiring gift for your favorite do-gooder!


Love animals? Then consider a gift to or from the ASPCA. They have items for both pets and humans, as well as symbolic gifts where you can choose the areas of greatest need.
What if I told you that you could purchase education costs including books, supplies, teaching costs and a safe school building for 18 students? You’d think I was crazy, right, you couldn’t afford a gift like that. Well, in some of the world’s poorest countries, like Afghanistan, you can purchase all of that for just $7.50 a month. Visit for more information.


If, after all of these suggestions, you still want to buy a traditional gift, there are ways to shop smarter and give back. There are websites like GoodSearch that rewards your favorite non-profit for internet searches. You can also sign up for Box Tops for Education and when you do your online shopping through them they give a percentage to a school that you choose. If you are shopping on Ebay, look for a seller that is giving a percentage to charity as that is an option on there. Many big retailers also offer special shopping days, where the customers make a $5 donation to a charity and then in return you get special discounts. Ask your favorite charity or department store if they participate. Or, ask your favorite local group if they are having a shopping night or “Mom’s night out” or similar event. These are usually held during the holiday season and they invite local artisans and crafters in to sell gifts, with a percentage going to the charity.

As you can see, there are numerous ways you can do social good while doing your holiday shopping. I hope you have a wonderful season.

Lisa Lightner lives in suburban Philadelphia with her husband, two sons and two dogs. In addition to working as a Special Education Advocate, she also writes two blogs. Smart Spending Spot is a frugal lifestyle blog that encourages families to adopt smart spending habits for both their money and their time. A Day in our Shoes is a resource site for parents of children with special needs to help them with the special education and IEP issues. She also is a member of the Global Team of 200, an international group of mom bloggers that uses their collective reach and power to make the world a better place for all children.

Want to connect even more with the #GivingTuesday community? Check out our awesome online social community! Share, connect, earn points!