Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last-minute Christmas gifts that come from the heart: Donate to charity this Christmas

If you haven't pinned down the perfect gift for Great Aunt Suzie yet and you don't know what to get your friend that has everything, fear not! Rather than pawing through the droopy poinsettias and the sausage sets at the grocery store for last-minute Christmas shopping, consider giving a charitable donation.

Why do charitable donations make great last-minute gifts?
  • For starters, you can donate to most non-profits online in an instant. Many, like Heifer International, a non-profit that gifts of livestock and training to impoverished families, allow you to send an e-card or print a card at home to notify the recipient of a gift.

  • Secondly, donations to charity are tax deductible expenses. You can save money on your taxes and do good at the same time!

  • Practically speaking, there are plenty of people who don't need more "stuff." And there are certainly people on your last-minute gift list who don't need a random gift picked up at a convenience store. Making a donation to charity lets someone know that you're thinking about him, without adding to his clutter.

  • Donations to charity are the "gift that keeps on giving". Not only do you feel good about making the donation, but your recipient feels good about being a part of the gift. The organization to who you choose to donate feels great because they get much-needed money to provide much-needed services. And the recipients of those services feel good because they're getting the help they need! Many charities even accept recurring donations online, which continue to the giving! The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, for example, is set up to receive either one-time donations or monthly donations.

  • Think donating just cash is a bit boring? You can send more than just money. With The Gorilla Foundation, for instance, you can support the amazing Koko, a gorilla who knows American Sign Language, by sending an item off The Gorilla Foundation Wish List. Currently on the wish list? A DVD of the STOMP performances (for the gorillas to watch) and things like laptops and cameras for research. You can send any of these gifts in an instant via, and can even send the foundation gift cards.
So instead of braving the crowds for the next few days to finish your Christmas shopping, cozy up to your computer with a cup of cocoa and donate to a few of your (and your recipients') favorite charities. You can even check the validity of your charity of choice with an agency like Charity Navigator, which evaluates and examines non-profits before providing them with a rating. And if you need a few ideas for some charities that could use some love this Christmas, here are a few of my favorites (with links straight to their donation pages):
  • Horizons for Homeless Children
    An organization that enriches the lives of homeless children in Massachusetts through high-quality early-education services.

  • Make A Child Smile
    Such a simple but important mission: to be a source of support to children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses and their families by having folks send cards, letters, and small gifts to the featured children and their siblings.

  • Prison Book Program
    Featured on IT&O before, the Prison Book Program provides quality reading material to inmates across the country, many of whom are working to better their lives by educating themselves and becoming literate.

  • Special Olympics A world-wide organization changing lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing Special Olympians with access to sports and the camaraderie of a team.
There are also dozens of local charities that need your support. To find one in your area, you can search via Network for Good or Just Give.

Happy holidays!

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