Another guest post! I was working on a couple of holiday gift guides for non-consumer types. One of my regular readers (and a dear friend) had already written one about charitable giving. Why reinvent the wheel? Rowan was gracious enough to let me reprint it, so here it is!
I thought I made this post every year, but looking back at last year around this time, I couldn’t find the previous one. It’s my (apparently almost) annual exhortation to consider buying holiday gifts that aren’t stuff.
My personal favourite is Kiva gift certificates. Kiva is a micro-lending clearing-house; a gift certificate allows the recipient to choose who to lend the gifted amount of money to (although, as an article recently pointed out, this is an illusion — you’re not really directly funding that person; on the other hand, it’s an illusion that gives my mother a huge amount of enjoyment, so I’m not knocking it). The advantage of this gift is that they get the money back to lend to someone(s) else in a year or so.
Microplace is another micro-lending site. I don’t have personal experience with this one. I might try it, though, just to find out if its interface is simpler to use than Kiva’s.
Heifer International is another of the big names; it allows you to “give” a farm animal.
Oxfam runs the “Unwrapped” program in a number of countries, including Canada, the US, and Britain. They offer a wide range of gifts that support health, education, or economic development (e.g. schoolbooks, immunizations, goats).
This year the US Red Cross is offering virtual gifts in three main categories — “Hope at Home” (domestic disaster support), “Help Military Families” (things like phone cards and comfort kits for wounded soldiers), and “Global Compassion” (vaccinations, shelter, bicycles).
Be aware that, with any of these gifts, you aren’t directly buying whatever it says you’re supposedly buying. The administrative overhead in organizing that would be insane. Instead, you’re giving roughly the amount of money it takes to purchase said item to a fund or program that buys those things, probably amongst other things. Still, it’s fun to say, “Hey, Mom, I got you a cow!”. I’m also chuffed that, after hearing my mother talk expansively about what awesome gifts I’ve been getting her each year, my yuppie brother is getting in on the act.