Giving Back

Good, Better, Best: Gifting in Action

by Jeralyn Gerba

Photo: Steve Snodgrass / Flickr

We just launched our Do-Good Goods Shop. Because, as Jeralyn explains below, nothing is better than a gift that keeps on giving.

An old friend and I get together every Christmas Eve for lunch at our hometown diner (19 years and counting). We used to exchange nostalgic joke presents (Spice Girl action figures, calendars of Leonardo DiCaprio from his Romeo & Juliet days) over milkshakes and fries.

This year, I'm giving her a pop-up potty.

When you think about it, two decades of novelty items don't add up to much. So we've scrapped the throwaway gifts in lieu of creative donations. We have bought llamas for women in Central America, jumped on the microfinance bandwagon in Mongolia, and supported non-profits that target poverty in NYC.

Where does the toilet come in? As OxFam America Unwrapped so poetically states, no one thinks an emergency toilet makes a good gift — until they need one. Pop-up potties keep things sanitary in crisis situations and give everyone a little more dignity, gift-givers included.

Charitable donations don't have to be a bummer to unwrap. Tons of creative organizations take action in innovative ways (see: A Liter of Light). You, as a single donor, can connect to communities all over the world and sometimes even track the progress of your gift.

If now is not the right time for you, plan for a Humanity Tithe on your next vacation — a memorable souvenir that takes up virtually no room in your carry-on.


Charitable ideas for everyone on your list.

For the Foodie
Heifer International
- Southern Foodways

For the Shopper
- Global Goods Partners
- Community Collection
- Donna DiStefano (Beautiful things from sustainable materials and responsible sources. All Malawi ruby pieces donate a portion of the cost directly to the miners in Malawi.)

For the Animal Lover
- Elephant Sanctuary
- Namibian Animal Shelter

For the Suit
- Kiva
- Nest

For the Arts Patron
- Groove with Me
- Any of a number of museums (like The Metropolitan Museum of Art or The Arm and Hammer Museum)

For the Aesthete
- Operation Smile
- Helen Keller International

For the Grown-Up Student
OneKid OneWorld provides education to kids in third world countries.
- The Citizens Foundation builds schools in Pakistan.
- Donors Choose provides a forum for helping teachers and classrooms directly.

For the Specialist
- Modest Needs lets you donate to specific individuals going through tough times.

For the Generalist
- Changing the Present is a one-stop for many causes and charities.
- Gifts that Give donates $1 of every $5 spent to the cause you select.  

For the Environmentalist
- Waterkeeper Alliance protects waterways on six continents. 

For the Pacifist
- Safe Horizon provides services to victims of violence in the United States.

And check out FATHOM's Do-Good Goods Shop for gift ideas from creative non-profits.


Gifts That Say You Care, by Nicholas D. Kristof (NYT)
No one writes better about global charities, worthwhile causes, and people trying to fix the problems than Kristof. 

We make every effort to ensure the information in our articles is accurate at the time of publication. But the world moves fast, and even we double-check important details before hitting the road.