Creative & Cutter-Free Gifts {Day 5}: Charitable Donations

posted by Andrea | 11/30/2012

Today is day 5 in my week-long Creative & Clutter-Free Gifts series… and we’re talking about a bunch of ways you can give back to different charities! All week long I’ve been sharing lots and lots of creative ways to give practical and clutter-free holiday gifts that should please everyone on your Christmas list — click on the links below to read the previous posts in this series.

Monday = Food
Tuesday = Gift Cards
Wednesday = Experiences
Thursdays = Cash
Friday = Charitable Donations
Saturday = Acts of Service

Oh, and I’d love to hear your ideas too, so feel free to leave them in the comment section below!

Day 5: Charitable Donations

photo source

I have several people on my Christmas list who are extremely difficult to buy for — mainly because they don’t need anything, they don’t want anything, or they have plenty of money to buy whatever they want/need themselves!

So while I still like to show that we’re thinking of them during the holidays, it’s REALLY hard to come up with a gift they will appreciate. Many times food and experience gifts won’t work because of food allergies or being immobile. And gift cards or cash don’t seem appropriate — especially if the person is quite wealthy, if they don’t enjoy shopping, or if they don’t buy into the commercialized aspect of Christmas.

In these situations, I often turn to charitable donations as my clutter-free gift of choice. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking.

1. Make a Donation in Their Name:

This is probably the easiest option — but no less meaningful. If you know there is an organization, group, charity, etc. that is near and dear to your recipient’s heart, I’m positive they will LOVE to know that you’ve made a donation in their name. And it doesn’t have to be a large donation — even $10 or $15 can make a difference.

Some organizations you might consider donating to are schools, churches, colleges/universities, food banks, orphanages, adoption agencies, hospitals, local non-profit organizations and/or businesses, homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters, nursing homes, mission support, etc.

2. Volunteer Together:

If  money is tight this year, consider volunteering your time to help in a local soup kitchen, at a school, public library, nursing home, church, etc. You could volunteer your time WITH the person you’re giving the gift to, or do alone it as a gift to them.

I know many elderly people who would love to know you’re giving up your time for the good of a cause they believe in. This could also be a valuable opportunity to involve your children in the volunteering process.

3. Sponsor a Child for a Year.

There are so many different organizations you can partner with to sponsor an underprivileged child from a third world country — and all of them are fabulous opportunities for you to give back.

This would actually be a really neat gift for your children or grandchildren — you pay the monthly sponsorship fees, but let them write letters, send pictures, and build the relationship!

4. Sponsor a Local Child or Family for Christmas:

If you can’t afford to sponsor a child for an entire year, consider sponsoring a child or a small family just for the holiday season — and doing it WITH someone on your Christmas list.  Go shopping together, wrap the gifts together, and deliver them to the child/family together.

I’m sure there are many people on your list who would love the ability to spend time with YOU and know that their efforts are making a difference for a local family in need. I also know from experience that this is a great way to engage children of all ages in the process of “giving back”. Maybe you could choose a family with the same age children as you have and then let each of your children choose age-appropriate gifts and come with you to deliver the gifts. If nothing else, it might be an eye-opening experience {I know it was for me!}

I think this is what Dave and I will be doing instead of giving each other gifts this year.

5. Support a Global Ministry:

This is on a broader scale than just sponsoring a child — this could be helping to support missionaries all over the world, helping third world countries get clean drinking water or medical supplies, bringing schools to tiny foreign communities, etc.  Dave and I did this a few years ago and really  had a lot of fun figuring out creative ways to give a donation along with a tangible gift from everyone’s list.

6. Support any Non-Profit Organization:

No matter where you live, there are scads of local non-profit organizations that would benefit from any size donation. And depending on what type of non-profit organization you’re interested in, you might be able to support them even further by purchasing different items they might sell.

For example, I recently did a giveaway with Better Life Bags — a Michigan-based non-profit organization that uses their proceeds to support underprivileged women right in their own community. And while I know they would take monetary donations, you could also support their cause by simply purchasing any number of their fabulous bags {which I just so happen to love!}

7. Support Disaster Relief Efforts:

There are many ways you can support disaster relief efforts locally, nationally, and globally. If someone on your Christmas list is especially connected with a specific disaster event, I’m sure they would love knowing that instead of a gift, you gave a donation to that specific relief effort.

Obviously, there are SO many more ideas — but since there’s no way I can list them all, I just tried grouping them into a few main categories. I’d love to hear your ideas too — feel free to leave links for specific groups and organizations in the comments section.

What are your favorite donation gifts?

Filed under: LifeGiving Back

Leave a comment


  1. Rob Marsh


    This is a lovely suggestion to donate to charity on behalf of a loved one if you are stuck for ideas for a gift. As it means that good deeds come from your act of Christmas giving.


  2. Mary


    A co worker that I help often, would bring me a gift every year. This year I asked him if if we could make boxes for Operation Christmas Child rather than exchange gifts. He agreed and he and wife had so much fun making it they plan on making more boxes next year. No clutter or calories for either of us, and a child benefits.


  3. Megan C


    My favorite donations gifts are for International Voice of the Orphans. It was started by my former pastor and his wife and 100% of the donations they receive go to care for the orphans. All administrative and their personal expenses come from elsewhere. They also have a website called Orphan Wares where people who are crafty can donate handmade items they have made. In turn, people buy those items and 100% of the purchase money goes to care for orphans. AWESOME, practical and so needed in our world.


  4. Anastasia


    one could knit/sew/craft items and donate them to a charity! slightly material, wholly worthwhile as i do not know of many charities that have too much in the way of material possessions.


  5. Gayle Greeley


    I am the Committee Chair for the Relay for Life of Allendale, MI and I have my cousin’s name in this year’s gift exchange. He asked for a donation to a charity. I have decided I will donate $25 to the American Cancer Society on his behalf. Under the tree I will wrap an Ornament that says Team Hope (our family team) Thanks You. Then he can remember in future years the year he made a donation in lieu of a present to himself! P.S. I love the clutter free suggestions. Thanks! Have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS 🙂


  6. Leanne


    My son’s birthday is in December…so the present overload is hard to avoid. This year, he is having his first official “kid” party for his 8th birthday. Instead of presents, he is asking kids to make a small donation to Riley Children’s Hospital. This past year, very close friends of our family discovered their son has leukemia…and he’s being treated at Riley… I love this gift idea because you can help your children get involved as well! this has been a great series of posts!
    thank you!!


  7. JoAnn C.


    This post is near and dear to my heart. In February the President and CEO of a gluten-free flour company sent me a free 25 lb. bag of her company’s flour because I had had trouble with a five pound bag I purchased. We spoke several times on the phone before and after that and she couldn’t have been nicer. It took me six months to save the money equal to the bag of flour, ($75), and I donated it in her name to Children’s Hospital in Detroit. It seemed fitting to pay it forward in her honor since she had shown such concern and caring. She in turn matched that donation. Giving back, paying it forward, whatever you want to call it is, in my opinion, true giving. Thanks for sharing this post.