A Dozen Plus Ways to Support a Good Cause While Gift-Shopping

December  8, 2016

Day 16 of 30 Days of Thoughtful Giving: Give back.

The season of giving is upon us, and while we're all thinking about finding just the right gift to give, we're also thinking about giving back: Around 25 percent of philanthropic giving happens between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.

Photo by James Ransom

If you're planning on making a donation, but don’t already have charities that you like to support, use websites (like Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, and GiveWell) designed to help you find organizations that support causes you care about—they'll also help you figure out which charities are most effective at what they’re trying to accomplish.

Of course, monetary donations and ​gifts don't have to be mutually exclusive, sometimes the two can intersect. These are some of our favorite ideas for gifts that give back:

Photo by Heifer International

Give an animal—that they won't have to take for a walk

Heifer is a well-known option for donating a goat, a water buffalo, honeybees, or an entire ark's worth of animals to help people living in communities with a long history of poverty. The animals provide both food and a reliable source of income, as the products (like milk or eggs) can be sold or traded at the market. Plus, it's truly​ a gift that keeps giving, as the families not only share the training​ they receive, but they also pass on the first female offspring of their livestock to another family in need.

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Top Comment:
“Did you know that Whole Foods Market is now matching 1:6 donations made by customers at checkout to that store's local food bank? In other words, for every dollar you donate, they match it with 6, for a total donation of $7. This will continue through Christmas. I was told by customer service in the Oakland store that this is a nationwide giving campaign by WFM. Give generously. It will make a difference. Think about it - fewer children will go to bed hungry, at least in the short term. Thank you. ;o)”
— AntoniaJames

Oxfam America is another great option for donating an animal, or you can choose to have your money help in another way: It can go towards planting a forest, starting a farmers market, or even giving the gift of peace.

You can also adopt a farm animal on someone's behalf through Farm Sanctuary: A sponsorship provides food and shelter for a needy farm animal. If the gift recipient​ is in the New York City area and you've sponsored an animal at the New York Shelter, it's possible to meet your farm animal friend!

Give African-made home goods, and stories to go with them.

New to our shop this fall, each piece from Rose & Fitzgerald is hand-crafted in Uganda by local artisans and metalsmiths. Their goals are to create beautiful pieces, and a sustainable practice, that have a positive impact on the African community that makes them.

Book Bag (left) and Utility Tote (right) Photo by Stone & Cloth, Stone & Cloth

Give a bag that totes all of their stuff—and students' dreams

Stone & Cloth bags are made in America; they have clean, classic lines, and the backpacks all have ChargeVents—which means you don't have to take your laptop out of the backpack to be able to plug it in and charge it. Even better, every purchase invests in education around the globe ​and provides a student with hours of classroom learning they might otherwise not have access to through their partnership with Knock Foundation.

Photo by cuddle + kind

Give a doll—and food to hungry children

Each adorable cuddle+kind doll is hand-knit and hand-embroidered—and it's almost guaranteed that the kids​ in your life won't be able to keep their hands off of them. You'll feel good knowing that with every purchase, ten​ meals are donated to children in need through World Food Program USA and Children’s Hunger Fund, getting cuddle+kind a little bit closer to their goal of feeding 1 million children a year.

Give art with heart.

For the month of December, artist Peter Sebeckis is giving 50% of all sales of his artwork to ACLU and the Natural Resources Defense Council. (The two pieces above are favorites, but he's got a lot more in stock.)

Photo by Krochet Kids

Give a gift that provides relief from the cold—and relief from poverty

Krochet Kids works with highly vulnerable women who live in poverty-stricken​ regions of Northern Uganda and Peru and empowers them to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Find hats, scarves, and more for everyone on your list, and then check out who made it (every product is hand-signed, and you can learn more about the women here).

Wanderlust Shawl (left) and Zera Bowl (right) Photo by Sseko Designs, Local + Lejos

Gift a gift that looks smart—and is a smart way to help others

The intricate pattern on Sseko Designs’ hand-woven shawl (above left) showcases the skills of their team of expert and indigenous artisan weavers. Your purchase​ provides employment and scholarship opportunities to those women pursuing their dreams and overcoming poverty—so far, they’ve enabled 60 women in Uganda to continue to university.

Local + Lejos features home decor made by talented artisans around the world. Your purchase of a Zera Bowl (above right) allows the artist in Rwanda to pay her (or a member of her family's) health insurance for a year.

The gift of cozy toes (and trees)

We're all about holiday socks—in stockings, or gifted otherwise—and these from Conscious Step do more than just make toes all toasty. Through partners like Trees for the Future and UNAIDS, Conscious Step gives back with every purchase: 20 trees will be planted with purchase of the right socks above, and three days of HIV treatment will be administered to an expectant mother, with the other pair.

Photo by MiiR

Give the give of speed—and transportation for others

MiiR began with water bottles: Each hydration product empowers one person with clean water for an entire year. Next, they expanded to bicycles: A purchase provides a bicycle to someone in need, whether it’s to help a volunteer HIV/AIDS healthcare workers in rural Africa reach their clients more quickly and more often, or a student gain access to school who otherwise might not be able to get there. They've also expanded their line of products to include bags to empower education.

Photo by FEED

Give a tote for all the things—that also feeds the hungry

FEED’s mission is to create good products that help feed the world—to date they've provided over 87 million meals to children and families globally. This leather Harriet Tote (above) feeds 100 school meals for children around the world—a sophisticated take on the original FEED bag that founder Lauren Bush Lauren conceived of in her college dorm room after her travels with the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Dive into a water print-lined bag—and provide clean drinking water

Featuring a custom water print lining, this quilted grey Metro Tote and its matching accessories are an exclusive collaboration between MZ Wallace and Food52 for charity: water; 15 percent of all proceeds will go to supporting clean drinking water in developing countries.

Give meals and snacks—and provide jobs for women who need them

The Women's Bean Project is a non-profit that employs impoverished women from all kinds of backgrounds, by teaching them to make a range of (gift-ready) food products from golden cornbread mix to black bean soup mix to a particularly inviting Hot Salsa Mix. The more they sell, the more women they can hire to help with production.

Useful Towel (left) and TOMS cup and saucer (right) Photo by BDB, TOMS

Turn water into coffee—and then turn coffee into water

BDB is a Brooklyn-based design studio that sells ceramics, but she also has an offsite store dedicated to selling a handful of wares where 100 percent of the proceeds are donated to organizations dedicated to caring for children in need. All of the proceeds from sales of the aptly named Useful Towel (above left) are donated to Save the Children.

Give a cuppa, and water to those who lack it.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that TOMS provides shoes to children in need, but you might not know that they’ve expanded to give in other ways too. Purchases from TOMS Roasting Co., like this cup and saucer(above right) provide safe water to people who lack access to it.

What are your favorite gifts that give back? Tell us in the comments!

This article originally ran last holiday season; we brought it back (with the addition of some new picks) for 30 Days of Thoughtful Giving.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kathleen
  • AntoniaJames
  • Gabi Benedit
    Gabi Benedit
  • Rebecca Schechterle
    Rebecca Schechterle
  • Lindsay-Jean Hard
    Lindsay-Jean Hard
I like esoteric facts about vegetables and think ambling through a farmers market is a great way to start the day. My first cookbook, available now, is called Cooking with Scraps.


Kathleen December 8, 2016
Here is another great Gift that Gives Back! Sip & Support at the same time with wine from Napa Valley called Delaney Blue Sauvignon Blanc! This wine was created specifically to raise funds for Type 1 Diabetes Research! Follow their mission to Inspire, Dream, Hope & Cure! It's the #Wine4aCure Check it out at:
AntoniaJames December 8, 2016
Nice to see this. We've been giving flocks of chickens and ducks, and goats and sheep, to relatives and friends for decades.
Did you know that Whole Foods Market is now matching 1:6 donations made by customers at checkout to that store's local food bank? In other words, for every dollar you donate, they match it with 6, for a total donation of $7. This will continue through Christmas. I was told by customer service in the Oakland store that this is a nationwide giving campaign by WFM.
Give generously. It will make a difference. Think about it - fewer children will go to bed hungry, at least in the short term. Thank you. ;o)
Author Comment
Lindsay-Jean H. December 8, 2016
That's fantastic, thanks for sharing!
Gabi B. December 4, 2015
These are wonderful gifts!!! This year we are going with Heifer International :)
Rebecca S. December 3, 2015
It appears that the For Goodness Sake link isn't working.
Caroline L. December 3, 2015
hi rebecca! thanks for pointing this out. the link should now be correct!