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Gifts that Give Back

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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.

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.

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!

Book Bag (left) and Utility Tote (right) Photos 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.

Bucket with leather handle (left) and ice cream pint server set (right) Photos by For Goodness Sake, For Goodness Sake

Give a gift that makes an impact in the kitchen—and in communities near and far​

For Goodness Sake carries a wide variety of products: some made by local artisans, others from sustainable and recycled materials, and others as a result of fair and ethical trade. And whichever products you choose, know that For Goodness Sake donates a minimum of 25 percent of proceeds from every purchase to their charity partners.

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 Tray (right) Photos 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 Tray (above right) allows the artist in Rwanda to add a chicken or a rabbit to her farm.

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. Now they’re expanding their line of products to include bags to empower education.

Photos by Rocky Luten and James Ransom, Rocky Luten and James Ransom

Give a dinner party for your friends—and feed 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 exclusive indigo FEED bag (above left) feeds one student for an entire school year—it's our 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).

Each FEED for Food52 Dinner Brigade Box (above right) includes the supplies for hosting a party of six, with a pennant banner, placemats, name cards with conversation starters on the back, and six copies of our Burnt Toast Dinner Brigade Field Guide (which contains 10 of our favorite recipes, plus our tips for pulling it all off). Once the meal is over, our favorite part may be the "Thank You" note seed packets from Hudson Valley Seeds to thank each guest for their donation—it's a gift that keeps on feeding.

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.

Useful Towel (left) and Chemex 8-Cup Glass Coffeemaker (right) Photos 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.

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 special edition CHEMEX(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!

Tags: charity, donations,