Giving someone a gift makes you feel good. Giving to charity makes you feel good, too. Now imagine how you would feel if you could combine these two gratifying gestures. Find out this holiday season by taking a philanthropic approach to gift giving and choosing presents for family and friends that support charitable efforts either close to home or around the nation and the world.
“When you give a gift that helps someone else, it’s like a boomerang,” says Robyn Spizman, “chief gift officer” at TheGiftionary.com and co-author of Do Your Giving While You Are Living: Inspirational Lessons on What You Can Do Today to Make a Difference Tomorrow.
“You’re passing it on—you’re paying it forward. Your recipient feels touched and may be inspired to give a similar gift to someone else. You end up making a real difference in the world.” And you, in turn, will experience the unabated satisfaction of having such a significant effect on others.
Of course, if you’re used to giving a monetary donation as a way of contributing to charity, you may be unfamiliar with how you can turn that altruistic act into a gift-giving opportunity. Fortunately, there are several ways to give meaningful gifts that not only will warm the hearts of the important people in your life, but also support the charities of your choosing. And there are myriad worthy nonprofit organizations that can give you the perfect vehicle for delivering magnanimous holiday cheer this year. “There are so many organizations out there that are doing such great things,” Spizman says. “And in today’s economy, charities have been hit hard. They are so grateful when you support them. The little bit you give can uplift someone or change a life. Giving a charitable gift really is a gift that keeps on giving.”
|The newly launched Web site www.thegiftionary.com is the ultimate guide to gift giving. Offering an easy-to-search go-to gift guide listing detailed descriptions by themes, occasions or city, this is the place to start your hunt for the perfect present. And with a charitable-gifts section, you’ll be able to give gifts from the heart throughout the year.|
But where do you start? It’s a good idea to begin with the charity itself. For instance, if you have a cause that you’re passionate about, focus your gift-giving efforts on a charity that supports it. You can also pinpoint a cause that’s particularly special to your gift recipient. “That’s the secret to gift giving—thinking about what someone else values,” Spizman says. “Then do your homework and find an organization that’s consistent with those values.” Once you identify the cause—or causes—you want to champion, use the following ideas to select the perfect presents for everyone on your holiday gift list.
Give in someone’s name
Before you head to the mall to pick out yet another crystal vase for either your aunt or your neighbor, consider making a donation to charity in her name instead. As Spizman points out, “Who needs another dust collector?” This year, trade objects for action and help your gift recipient make their own difference in the world. Typically, when you make a monetary donation, the person you name as the contributor will receive an acknowledgement of the donation, such as a card or a certificate, in the mail or via e-mail. If you would like to present the individual with a tangible gift yourself, consider having the acknowledgement sent directly to you so you can wrap it and put it under the tree.
Now accepting donations…
Don’t know where to donate in someone else’s name? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- World Wildlife Fund: Animal enthusiasts will love having you support the WWF in their name. Check out the organization’s gift center online at www.worldwildlife.org and adopt a species on behalf of your brother or your best friend. Choose from lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), or go with more unexpected options like the Rockhopper Penguin or the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. Your loved one will receive an adoption kit, including a plush replica of the animal, a certificate, a photo and other items, depending on the amount donated.
- Camp Twin Lakes: Located on 500 acres in Rutledge, Ga., Camp Twin Lakes offers year-round recreational, therapeutic and educational programs for children facing serious illness or other physical, emotional and life challenges. If you know someone who has a soft spot in their heart for children in this situation, make a donation in their name and send a worthy youngster to camp in their honor. Or consider purchasing a ceramic tile engraved with your gift recipient’s name for the special tile wall located in the Camp Twin Lakes Klaus Family Welcome Center. Visit www.camptwinlakes.org for details about donating In Honor or In Memory of a special someone.
- The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) was incorporated a decade ago in Maryland to improve the lives of children who need financial assistance by covering medical treatment. In January 2006, the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation was expanded to all 50 states. In 2007, 450 medical grants were provided to children, worth an estimated $1.3 million. Last year, the foundation provided medical grants to nearly 600 children, worth an estimated $1.7 million. UnitedHealthcare of Georgia, Inc. has partnered with the Atlanta Falcons for events benefitting UHCCF including the inaugural Foot“Bowl”, as well as the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation Golf Classic at the Golf Club of Georgia.
“The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation is an organization dedicated to helping children in need of financial assistance with medical bills,” says UnitedHealthcare of Georgia, Inc. President and CEO Rick Elliott. “We are extremely pleased to be able to give back to our community through this great cause, especially in these tough economic times. The number of applicants is on the rise, so our efforts are more important than ever.”
To make a rax-deductible donation that will fund medical grants that help children access new or continued medical treatment, visit www.uhccf.org.
Go straight to the source
|Want to send seasons greetings that really mean something this year? Purchase holiday cards through Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Each of the cards is designed by a local metro-area child and can be purchased at www.choa.org. Your purchase directly benefits the patients and families of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.|
These days, many charities have online stores that allow you to purchase items that support their cause. From clothes and accessories to coffee mugs, pens, tote bags and car decals, you can find a wide array of high-quality, fun and functional gifts for everyone on your list. And as soon as you click the “Submit Your Order” button on the checkout page, a portion of your purchase will go directly to the nonprofit. What’s more, because the items typically have the charity’s name or message printed on them, your mom or sister can spread the word about the work the organization does by simply wearing or using the gift you gave them.
Shop till you drop (your mouse)
With so many nonprofit organizations online today, it can be tough to know where to click first. Check out these options to get your shopping off to a good start:
- Make-A-Wish Foundation: The Make-A-Wish Product Marketplace, found at www.makeawishmarketplace.com, features shirts, hats, jewelry, picture frames, ornaments and so much more. You can order online or by phone, and between 35 and 40 percent of the purchase price will benefit the foundation, which is the nation’s largest wish-granting organization, giving hope and joy to children with life-threatening conditions.
- American Diabetes Association Holiday Store: It would be difficult to find a more comprehensive online store than the one found at www.diabetes.org. The holiday decor, kitchen and dining and home and garden sections alone will keep you surfing for a while with more than 100 items to choose from. And the money from your purchases goes directly to diabetes research. You can also request a copy of the Gift of Hope catalog so you can review your gift options any time, anywhere.
- National Autism Association: Autism has become such a prevalent topic in recent years, and the National Autism Association is working hard to educate the public about this bio-neurological developmental disability. Support their efforts by purchasing a calendar, an animated-music DVD, a puzzle ring, custom glassware or other item through the organization’s Little Shop of Hope, located at www.nationalautismassociation.org.
Bring it home
Atlanta has its own plethora of nonprofit organizations from which you can purchase items directly. Consider these charities and their superb products:
- Girls Incorporated: Girls Inc. is a national nonprofit youth organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. With a Girls Inc. of Greater Atlanta serving more than 3,000 girls annually, supporting this organization with a purchase is a great idea. Find apparel, accessories and publications online at www.girlsinc.org, or visit www.girlsincatlanta.org for more details.
- PAWS Atlanta: This pet-adoption organization recently partnered with family-owned coffee roaster Aroma Ridge to create a line of PAWS Atlanta-labeled coffees and gifts. Purchase the PAWS Atlanta Holiday Gift Set or individual 1-pound bags of the PAWS Blend, Jingle Joe or Rescue Me varieties for the holidays by visiting www.pawsatlanta.org. But be sure to act fast—the holiday fundraiser with these limited-edition coffees will end on Dec. 31
Shop for a cause
|Consider giving aid to the organizations that help the homeless. It is estimated that 60 homeless people die from the cold each year in Atlanta.|
If you can’t find what you’re looking for directly through an organization you want to support, you have another option. Look for products that support a cause that’s close to your or your gift recipient’s heart. During this time of the year, many major retailers will carry items that benefit certain charities, from t-shirts to makeup products, with a portion of the proceeds going to a nonprofit or group of organizations. Spizman suggests going into a store and simply asking which products they carry that benefit charitable causes. It’s the best of both worlds: you have a great gift to give, and your dollars make a lot of sense.
The best kind of buy
These days, companies have become very socially conscious, so it’s not difficult to find products that benefit humanitarian causes. And there’s one online shopping portal consisting of several sites that let you peruse products that support a wide variety of charities. You are sure to find what you’re looking for here:
Give the gift of good eating
There’s no doubt that the holiday season makes you think of eating. This year, give the gift of good eats to your loved ones while extending the same service to others in need. Good Measure Meals, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary, offers healthy, convenient meals for fitness-conscious individuals, busy professionals and people with special dietary requirements due to health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or abnormal body-fat levels. Why not purchase a 5- or 7-day meal plan? 100 percent of the profits go to Atlanta-based Open Hand, which provides home-delivered meals and nutrition education to senior citizens and individuals struggling with a chronic, critical or terminal illness in 17 metro-Atlanta counties. For more information, visit www.goodmeasuremeals.com.
Adventures in giving, Atlanta-style
If you want to give a charitable gift in someone’s name that benefits children specifically, there’s an organization right here in Atlanta that will give you that wonderful opportunity. Consider contributing to Bert’s Big Adventure, which provides families of chronically or terminally ill children ages 5 to 12 with a special trip to Walt Disney World. In addition to giving them the time of their life mingling with Mickey and his friends, the trip allows families to step away from the hospital and truly enjoy each other, creating memories that will last a lifetime. And because the opportunity is available to children who live in The Bert Show (WWWQ-FM/99.7) listening area, you and your gift recipient will know that you’ve helped little ones close to home. Learn more about Bert’s Big Adventure and donate online at www.bertsbigadventure.org.
Fly high this holiday season
If you would like your charitable giving to include an animal-oriented organization that helps people, too, Flying Change, one of the nation’s oldest Equine Assisted Psychotherapy programs, is the perfect charity for you. Based in Vinings, Flying Change is a leader in the field of Equine Assisted Growth and Learning for people of all ages, helping them overcome emotional and physical challenges as they are motivated by the guidance, acceptance and love of a horse. Consider giving a healing session to someone you love, or simply make a donation to the organization in that person’s name. Another great option is to sponsor a Flying Change horse (the program now accepts rescue horses for use in its psychotherapy program); your contribution will allow the animal to receive the highest-quality feed, hay, veterinary treatment and much more. For more information, visit www.flyingchange.org
Still can’t decide which organization to support on behalf of someone else? Let them choose! Visit Charity Checks at
www.charitychecks.us to purchase a “giving certificate” that’s redeemable at more than 800,000 IRS-qualified charities across the country.
The new Givft card, created by Atlantan Alana Berlin, also enables you to make a donation to the charity chosen by your recipient. “Many people feel as though it¹s a ittle presumptuous to give in someone’s honor to a charity chosen for them; it could be a little awkward if you give it to someone who doesn’t support that organization,” Berlin says, adding that the Givft card remove that challenge. To find out more, visit www.thegiftthatgives.org