What do you get the father who has everything, your anti-consumer brother-in-law, or your all-too principled uncle? How about giving them a cause they can get behind? Yes, a large percentage of charities allow you to gift a donation — the money you send them is in your gift recipient’s name — plus, many offer actual gifts you can purchase, along with adoptions, pet elephants, lions, and orcas (also adopted), and sponsorships. Here’s where to start.
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Adopt a Sea Creature for Oceana
Oceana's mission is to help protect marine life from the myriad of issues they are facing these days. They work to prevent oil spills by working with governments to create stricter standards and are one of the leaders in combating overfishing. To raise funds they offer you the option to adopt an animal in someone's name. They get a plush stuffed animal, a cookie cutter in the shape of their animal, and a personalized adoption certificate, you get peace of mind knowing you are helping.
How to Gift It:
Their online adoption portal allows you to choose from a variety of animals starting at $75 for one and going up to $150 for three. Visit their website to get started.
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Adopt a Lion
In the Eastern Plains of Colorado, the largest carnivore sanctuary in the world exists on the same plains where deer and antelope roam. The over 450 lions, tigers, bears, and other large carnivores they have rescued undergo a lengthy rehabilitation period where they learn how to live with others of their own kind. Once they are ready, they are then released into large open-air pens to mingle, and live out their lives in peace on the 720-acre facility. Feeding and caring for these creatures is not cheap, so they offer pet adoptions as a way to raise funds.
How to Gift It: They offer three levels of adoption ($360, $240, $120) depending on the size of the animal. For that, your giftee will receive a framed photo of their animal, adoption certificate with the animal's history, and periodic updates. You can pay all at once or monthly. Visit their website to get started.
Credit: Getty Images
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Gift a Vespa, Help (RED) Beat AIDS
In the decade since (RED) was launched by Bono and Bobby Shriver, the nonprofit has raised over $365 million to help combat the spread of AIDS across the planet. Using Bono's star power, they partner with various corporations to raise funds to attack the disease where it is most damaging — in countries in Africa with a high prevalence of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. So far they have impacted the lives of over 70 million people, but they need help to continue the fight.
How to Gift It:
Their online marketplace offers a wide variety of products, ranging from the newest Killers album to a Vespa scooter. You buy the gift for someone you love, and they get a custom designed item that will only be on the market for a short time. Up to 50 percent of the profits of your purchase goes toward helping (RED). Visit their website to get started.
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Help the Red Cross
As the only three-time winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (1917, 1944, and 1963), the Red Cross has provided relief throughout the world. Whether it's a tornado outbreak in the Midwest, Tsunami in Japan, or famine in Africa, they are usually one of the first organizations to provide help. The holiday season is one of the largest donation times of the year for the Red Cross, and you can help them in someone's name.
How to Gift It:
For the holiday season, or while supplies last, the American Red Cross is offering gifts at three different donation levels, plus a card sent to the person you are honoring. Visit their website to get started.
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A Handmade Gift from UNICEF
Since their founding just after World War II, UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) has existed to do just one thing, to provide help to mothers and children in developing countries. With staff on the ground in over 190 countries they have the ability to make lasting impacts in regions that need help the most. They have led the efforts to improve education, immunizations, opportunities, and infant mortality rates across the globe.
How to Gift It:
As a major partner with many corporate entities their online market offers a wide array of gift items to choose from (many handmade) ranging African Masks to women's jewelry. Visit their website to get started.
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National Parks Pass
It only seems fitting that in the year the National Parks system turned 100 years old, that every outdoor lover on your gift list should receive a year long pass to go visit them. It is good for one-full-year from the month of purchase while allowing the holder, plus three others (perfect for families), access to over 413 different Parks, Rivers, Memorials, Recreation Areas, and Monuments. Best of all the monies go to keeping the agency afloat during these days of government cutbacks.
How to Gift It:
An annual pass is $80 and can be purchased online, or at many major outdoor retailers. Visit their website to get started.
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Bike Gear for World Bicycle Relief
What most of us take for granted, reliable transportation is a luxury for much of the world. Just getting from one point to another can be an ordeal, much more so in the developing parts of the world. That's where World Bicycle Relief steps in to help. Since their founding in 2005, they have distributed over 300,000 specially designed bikes across Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia to students, healthcare workers, and entrepreneurs to help them move forward.
How to Gift It:
Their online store has a wide array of gifts, from T-shirts to bike tools, you can give to the cyclist on your list, with all proceeds going to help fund their mission. Visit their website to get started.
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An American Prairie Reserve Membership
It's hard to think that only a few centuries ago the Great Plains flowed unbroken across the heartland of America, one continual sea of grasses and wildlife. The American Prairie Reserve is a nonprofit that is in the process of stitching together those large swath of lands to again create an unbroken expanse of plains across part of Montana. Since 2004 they have acquired over 350,000 acres of land.
How to Gift It:
You can give a loved one, or a good friend, a membership to the reserve, and they will receive member-only reports, a window sticker for their car, their name displayed at their headquarters, and a certificate acknowledging their contribution. Visit their website to get started.
Credit: Getty Images
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Adopt-a-Book for the Smithsonian Library
Help preserve a piece of history and delight the book lover in your life with the Smithsonian Libraries' Adopt-a-Book program. As the world's largest museum and research complex, they are dedicated to preserving the past so future generations can enjoy it. Part of that past is the conservation, acquisition, and digitization of books and manuscripts, and they need help to fund their efforts. From rare first editions to modern day classics, their list of books up for adoption is extensive.
How to Gift It:
On their website they have books listed under two categories — Build the Collection, and Preserve for the Future — pick one to sponsor. The person you are giving to will receive a virtual bookplate in their online catalog and a physical bookplate in the museum, plus a gift acknowledgment from the museum. Visit their website to get started.
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Save the Monarch Butterflies
Every year millions of Monarch Butterflies migrate over 2,500 miles south to spend the winter in the warmth of Mexico. During their stay in the highlands of the Michoacán region, hundreds of them will survive on one tree, feeding on larval food plants until it is time to head back north in the spring. But over-logging has led to an alarming loss of trees to support them, leading to fears of a species collapse. The Forests for Monarchs Program mission is to plant 1 million trees in the region.
How to Gift It:
A $25 donation to Greater Good will plant 50 trees, helping to reforest 0.1 acres of land. One hundred percent of the monies they raise go to the project as a grant, and you can print a certificate from their website to give to the person in whose name you have made the contribution. Visit their website to get started.
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Books for Africa
This nonprofit's idea is simple: Ship books — textbooks, law books, children's books, encyclopedias — to places in Africa where they are hard to come by. Books for Africa has shipped some 34 million books donated from publishers, schools, libraries, individuals, and organizations to 49 countries since 1988. By shipping sea containers filled with tons of tomes, they are able to keep costs low (approximately 50 cents per book), and ensure that your donation dollars are well spent.
How to Gift It: For a donation of $50 or more, Books for Africa will send a handwritten note card or email notification to your honoree. Go to their website and click on the Donate now tab, then click on the honor a friend with a gift tab. From there choose the amount you wish to donate in your recipient's name.
Credit: Kevin Gibbons
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For over 25 years Conservation International has been working to protect the planet's natural wealth by educating governments across the globe to the vital role it occupies in daily life, and how they can protect it by employing sustainable production practices. Their ocean health index has provided a data-based way to measure the human-ocean ecosystem, and their ongoing mapping of the Earth's ecosystems to identify specific "reservoirs of natural capital" have proven instrumental in preserving certain areas across the planet. The best part is due to their large base of donors, they are able to match every dollar donated from individuals.
How to Gift It: You are able to make a donation in any amount honoring your gift-getter from their website here. Once you have made it, they will send you an email thanking you for your donation that you can present to your gift's recipient.
Credit: Getty Images
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The Wilderness Society
Since their founding in 1935 The Wilderness Society has had only one focus — to protect American wilderness from development and despoilment. Under their watch nearly 110 million acres of land in 44 states has been permanently protected. They also offer one of the more grand gift ideas for the holiday season. You can adopt one of twelve iconic regions spread across the country (Yellowstone, Yosemite, Mount Rainier, and the Southern Appalachians are a few) and your gift will help them continue to keep it pristine.
How to Gift It: For $35 you are able to choose one of the areas in your honoree's name. They will receive an Ansel Adams portfolio, their annual calendar, subscription to their newsletter, and membership in the organization. Choose which one of America's wilderness you will give someone today here.
Credit: Mason Cummings
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The Elephant Sanctuary
Tucked into a quiet corner of Tennessee is the nation's largest natural habitat refuge developed specifically for endangered African and Asian elephants. On 2,700 acres of land, retired pachyderms live out their life roaming amongst forests and fauna, protected from predators, both natural and manmade. Since the sanctuary is not open to the public, it relies entirely on donations to maintain this unique preserve. Their elephant donation program allows you to pick a specific resident to help out.
How to Gift It: For $50, you can choose from fourteen elephants to gift. They will send an adoption certificate, photo, plus a detailed biography of their history to your giftee. Visit their website to get started.
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Toys for Tots
Dedicated to providing toys to underprivileged children across the country, Toys for Tots has distributed close to 500 million gifts in its 68 years of existence. Run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve, they partner with some of the biggest names in the industry (Hasbro, Toys R Us, Build-A-Bear, Disney, and ebay to name a few) to receive new, unopened gifts that they distribute during the holiday season. You can donate a gift in honor of a loved one and make some child's day.
How to Gift It: You can choose any amount to give for your gift. They will send either an e-card or a greeting card to your recipient thanking them for their gift. From their website click on the Donate Now tab and then pick the link to Donate in Memory or Honor.
Credit: Andy Cross / The Denver Post / Getty Images
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St Jude's Children's Research Hospital
Since its founding in 1962, St Jude's has existed to do one thing — eliminate childhood cancer. Some of the leading childhood cancer researchers in the world work in their halls, and they proudly point to the fact that the survival rate for childhood cancer has gone from 20 percent when they opened to 80 percent today. Furthermore, no family in need is ever presented with a bill. With a plethora of celebrity backers (Jennifer Aniston, Marlo Thomas, and Daisy Fuentes are a few) and numerous corporations donating materials, they have an extensive collection of items available in their online gift store you can purchase as gifts.
How to Gift It: Some of the more original gift items they offer are a T-shirt designed by Aniston, a set of ornaments inspired by patients' art, or a share of a chemotherapy session in your honoree's name. Their gift shop has everything available listed in an organized fashion here.
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The Sierra Club
As the nation's largest environmental organization, the Sierra Club has been instrumental in preserving wilderness areas, establishing parks, and influencing policy. Established by naturalist John Muir in 1892, they have been leading groups on outings since the beginning of the twentieth century — which you can book for a loved one this holiday season. They can take you on ecologically sound trips across the globe while offering you access to areas seldom seen. The best part is all of the profits from the trip help them in their mission.
How to Gift It: As you would expect from an organization as established as the Sierra Club they have a large list of trips to offer, over 300 across the globe. Prices range from $400 to $8,000 per person. To book the ultimate gift visit their website.
Credit: Lina Nilsson
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Ocean Futures Societies
Overfishing, acidification, and a host of other issues are confronting the worlds oceans these days. While there are numerous organizations fighting for them, only one is run by Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the legendary Jacques Cousteau. With a focus being the "Voice of the Ocean," Ocean Futures acts as a communication conduit focusing on environmental policy and informing the public through documentaries and educational programs. For this holiday season, you can give someone special a signed copy of Jean-Michel's book My Father, The Capitan: My Life with Jacques Cousteau.
How to Gift It: For $50 you can purchase this limited-edition book that will either be sent to you so you can wrap it, or directly to your giftee — just be forewarned, it won't be wrapped. Head to their online store here to order.
Credit: Carrie Vonderhaar
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This nonprofit sends relief parcels to over 1,100 nonprofit community clinics and health centers across the United States, offering a safety net to over 20 million people who otherwise might not get the care they need. Once you donate, they will keep you informed as to where your cash is being spent with weekly emails and direct access to their blog posts highlighting where they are operating.
How to Gift It: Starting at $25 you can donate in your recipient's name. They will receive an email telling them what you have done and be signed up for their weekly emails detailing how their donation is helping. From the ways to give page on their website, chose "Give a gift in Tribute" to set up your gift.
Credit: Mark Semegen
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Care started at the end of World War II when they shipped "CARE Packages" to the survivors living in the rubble of Europe, and they have been delivering boxes of hope across the globe ever since. With a focus on some of the poorer regions of the planet, Care delivers much-needed food supplies, education, and investment to help turn lives around. The best part: You get to create a virtual care package with a variety of items offered on their website (a goat, piglet, water-treatment kits, soccer balls), and then they will send an ECard detailing what you have given in their name.
How to Gift It: On their website you build your care package in your honoree's name. For every gift you choose CARE will either send a personalized email to them, or you can print a card that you can present them with detailing what you have given in their name.
Credit: Miguel Samper
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Can't decide on a cause? Get a gift card for the GlobalGiving Foundation instead. The site links to thousands of worthy projects in what makes up the largest global crowdfunding community for nonprofits.
How to Gift It: You can buy gift cards starting at $10 and going to $10,000 that you can send electronically, print at home, or have them send an actual gift card to your recipient. Visit their website and choose what option you want.
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World Wildlife Fund
As one of the larger conservation funds on the planet, the World Wildlife Fund focuses on creating government policies that promote biodiversity and responsible resource management. Working alongside teams of scientists, the organization brings awareness to the most pressing issues in the world, from poaching in Africa to freshwater in South America.
How to Gift It: The organizationoffers 128 species that you can choose from to adopt in someone's name. They will receive a plush toy of their animal, a photo, species card, gift bag, and adoption certificate outlining the help they are giving to their animal, starting at $55. The adopt tab on their website will lead you to the list of animals you can choose from.
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Over the last 15 years, RxArt has commissioned 56 artists to transform the normally sterile environments in children'shospitals into visually stunning, interactive art settings. Having the backing of some of the art world's biggest names has allowed RxArt to accumulate a collection of one-of-a-kind puzzles, ornaments, wrapping paper, T-shirts, and coloring books that you can give for gifts over the holidays. The best part is all of the proceeds will go toward fueling their next hospital makeover.
How to Gift It: As you might expect from an art-focused nonprofit, RxArt offers a number of creative gifts with donations, including a coloring book where you get to choose the colors filling works of art from 52 different artists, custom wrapping paper, and puzzles starting at $15. Head to their website and click on the store tab to see the full list.
Credit: John Baldessari
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World Vision International
World Vision International operates in over 97 countries, providing humanitarian aid and relief. Their main focus is helping children in at-risk locations, where they have teams working to bring communities out of poverty, and set them on the road to success. Due to their corporate contacts, they are able to make every dollar donated achieve $1.28 in impact. Their sponsor-a-child program allows you to pick an actual child in need of help. Your gift recipient will get a video of the child they are sponsoring (there is a one-child to one-sponsor ratio), an information packet with photos and letters, and the ability to keep in contact with them moving forward.
How to Gift It: You will be able to choose a child to sponsor by gender, location (Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean), and age, from less than 1 to 14. Once you have chosen the child, they will send the information packet to your recipient and continual updates, letters, and more for as long as the sponsorship remains active. On their website click on the Sponsor and Child link to get started.