Even if the people in your life are spoiled, you don't need to turn to coal as a holiday gift. Instead, you can stuff stockings with gift cards that send cash in their honor to a worthy cause.
Changing the Present lets you make charitable contributions in the name of a loved one. Unlike other do-good gifting services (see below), you and your giftees can set up personal profiles that specify favorite causes. Plus, Changing the Present's Stupid Gifts Hall of Shame could be a destination in its own right (although I think fake vomit makes a fine present).
The list of causes runs the gamut from Aging to Women--with the environment, microcredit, and 28 others in between. For example, you could pay $160 to send a laptop to a child on the wrong side of the digital divide, or $15 to clear 10 meters of landmines--then deduct it from your taxes come April. Your loved one gets a recycled paper gift card to show off his or her passive selflessness.
While it connects with hundreds of nonprofit organizations, Changing the Present doesn't yet hook up to GuideStar or another database that would let you add just about any 501(c)3 group to the roster. The site plans to expand its listings, although at this point, for instance, I only found three Illinois organizations.
If ecological cleanup and human rights protections are high on your wish lists, check out these other gifting Web sites:
- Alternative Gifts International can send clean water, wheelchairs, and doctors to villages on the other side of the planet.
- Heifer International's gift cards enable you to send honeybees, bunnies, chicks or big mammals like llamas and cows to rural families who need a hand to sustain their way of living.
- Seva means service in Sanskrit. Purchasing Seva gift cards in the name of a friend or family member can help fight child blindness and fund development projects for Indian, Native American, Latin American, and other communities.
- Through Modest Needs, you can offer a no-strings help to U.S. strangers who are having trouble paying paying medical bills and other vital expenses.
- Want to help, but you need the money back? Kiva microloans connect you with people in Eastern Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa who are looking to borrow funds for their small businesses.