'Tis the Season
The holidays can be joyous and magical — but they can also be overwhelming, stressful, and spending-obsessed. We’re inundated with messages about what would make a perfect gift; we’re afraid to miss out on hot-ticket items; and we’re operating with limited time, money, and energy.
To lift your spirits and relieve the emphasis on consumption, we rounded up gift ideas that match your contribution, deliver better life experiences, unite communities, and shed light on lesser-known charities. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of resources this year, here are six ways to make this giving season more fulfilling — for you and the people on your list.
Rather than grabbing something convenient and impersonal from the closest big-box store (which we do every other month of the year), take time this holiday season to think small. By supporting nearby businesses, you’re giving back to the community in more than one way. Local owners have invested a great deal of effort and money to become fixtures in your neighborhoods, and as the American Independent Business Alliance notes, “[c]ommunity-based businesses are essential to charitable endeavors [because] their owners frequently serve on local boards and support numerous causes.”
Thinking local can extend beyond your city to include small businesses around the country, supporting a healthy national economy. Consider a gift box, promising visions of snow and pine, made by hand with love and care. Invest in a hand-painted ketubah for your favorite couple. Bring these gorgeous snowflake confections to your holiday party. These personal touches are exactly what a season saturated with commercialism needs.
Focus on Experiences
When we conjure our fondest memories, they may involve mastering a skill, crossing an item off the bucket list, or seeing a place for the first time. These memories rarely revolve around a single object, yet that’s what we automatically reach for when we think of holiday gift giving.
A new crop of vendors is making larger-than-life gifts more accessible. Sites like Plumfund and Celebration Wishes can help you give friends and loved ones those experiences they’ll never forget, like a down payment on a house or a trip to a faraway place.
If no one on your list has a big-ticket wish, consider gifting a transformative experience, like a hike with The Peaks Foundation. This organization plans mountain treks for female climbers in countries such as India, Rwanda, Nepal, Peru, and Morocco, who raise money to fund empowerment initiatives in that area of the world (similar to a walkathon). You can go yourself, donate directly, or sponsor a friend on her own journey.
One For You, One For Charity
If you have your heart set on giving a tangible gift, seek out a company that gives with you. Toms and Warby Parker have led the way with their buy-a-pair, give-a-pair models, but there are dozens of companies that share the matching philosophy. Yoobi provides fun office supplies for you and a student in need, and The Company Store gives a comforter to a homeless child for each purchase.
On a global scale, Faucet Face donates part of the proceeds from its glass water bottles (plus a filter) to the charity Third Millennium Awakening. Glass bottles reduce plastic waste and any potential for harmful chemical side effects. Buying them from Faucet Face gives back to homes and communities in India that don’t have clean drinking water from their faucets. Win-win.
This year, give painting lessons rather than framed prints, investment strategies instead of cash, or wardrobe tips with a stylist over a new sweater. Let them earn the object as the final goal. But the options don’t end there — you can think bigger.
Have a friend with an online business? Don’t just buy one of their products, connect them with a conversion expert like The Good to deliver more customers and sales. For that cousin who’s still figuring out her passion, make a donation in her name to Live Your Dream, a community that empowers underserved women and girls achieve their goals. We all need help in making our dreams a reality, and the holiday season is the perfect time to deliver.
Support Women in Need
Seeking something beautiful? There are dozens of options to adorn bodies and homes while giving to those in need at the same time. Shop Far + Wide Collective for design-y throw pillows or Bird and Stone for standout necklaces, each made by artists in emerging countries. To help closer to home, visit Rosie’s Place for stunning handmade greeting cards and bookmarks crafted by women in a Boston shelter.
All Across Africa works with artisans in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi, pays them fair local market prices for their products, and makes those goods available to buy. Their online shops sell jewelry, baskets, and bags of all sizes. For your bestie at work, we suggest the vibrant makeup bags for under $20, and the satisfaction of knowing you helped a woman send her children to school or put food on the table.
Give Your Time
A traditional gift exchange involves one person giving a thing to another, but the holidays should be about family, friends, and community. If you have a new mom in your circle, offer your babysitting services so that she can go to a yoga class, get a pedicure, or just leave the house without an enormous diaper bag on her shoulder.
If you’re feeling even more ambitious, why not organize a group event? Make a day of shopping and shipping shoeboxes full of toys and necessities to children around the world through Operation Christmas Child.