A holiday shopping list with purpose

“Tis the season.” Or so it goes. Anymore “the season,” which is to say the mass-consumer-materialism-orgy that is Christmas starts two weeks before Halloween — if not earlier. Already, the big-box chain stores are launching their holiday ads with “wishlists” and celebratory “magic.” The whole buy-Buy-BUY part of Christmas is vulgar to me.

But I do love to give gifts from the heart and with purpose! And I especially love it when I can not only give a wonderful, thoughtful gift but one that betters the lives of more than just the recipient. Of course, I am talking about gifts that also give something back through charity. I am a big fan of community involvement, volunteerism and charity!

To that end, and to give a greater purpose to my obligatory Christmas shopping, last year I compiled a list of different websites and charitable gift ideas. Now with The Siren, I would like to share the list with everyone. It’s a collection of the things I have found, but it is in no way comprehensive. I encourage anyone to leave suggestions and tips in the comments. The more, the merrier!

Give mindfully and be thankful! And Happy Holidays!

— Emmily

[Before I launch into the list, Charity Watch is a great site to check up on any organization. You can also cull through a lot on Charity Navigator.]


Charity Malls:

  • Justgive is a great site! It has links to gift and donation options for several charities benefiting children, the homeless, people with AIDS and cancer, the environment and animals. I particularly like their recommendations for sites with holiday cards and on another page they have a link to use if you are shopping on Amazon.com, which will automatically give to charities supported by Justgive.org. They also have links to charity malls and charity auctions. Sweet!
  • A great charity mall site is Igive.com. If you start your shopping there and select participating stores (many of them like locally owned Femail Creations support small, women-owned businesses) then a certain percentage of your purchase is automatically credited to a charity or cause of your choice. (No extra charge to you.) Awesome! I have been using this site for 6 years (to benefit Henderson’s SAFE House). And it works all year long! And I found a new store through that site: Uncommon Goods, which has some unique stuff, including a lot of recycled art and jewelry.
  • Another charity mall site is Greatergood.com. They support a few different charitable causes including helping the rain forest, fighting breast cancer, promoting child health and literacy.
  • Similarly, check out Goodshop.com. [added 11-19-07]
  • World of Good supports arts cooperatives. [added 11-25-07]
  • Global Exchange specializes in fair-trade items made from recycled materials with a focus on benefiting human rights. [added 11-25-07]
  • eConscious Market features socially responsible goods from progressive, ecologically minded companies. The site gives 50 percent of net profits from each purchase to the charity of your choice. [added 11-25-07]

Individual Causes:

  • Sexual Assault: Nationally there is the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (aka RAINN). It’s a tough cause because no one likes to think about rape and incest. I highly recommend their gift options. Locally there’s the Rape Crisis Center. They don’t have gifts but they do accept desperately needed donations all year long.
  • AIDS: Product RED. Motorola, AmEx, GAP, Emporio Armani, Converse, Ipod, Hallmark and so many more have joined the RED campaign since it’s launch last year. This campaign is perhaps the best embodiment of what mindful capitalism can be (at least to me). They’ve already invested $30 million in aide. If you’re already going to buy the Ipod or whatever, check first to see if there’s a RED version. The Body Shop continues to offer the silver AIDS bracelet. The bracelets can also be found at Until There’s a Cure. Bath & Body Works has teamed up with Elton John’s AIDS Foundation again this year – this time with a travel tin scented-candle. MAC Viva Glam lipstick and greeting cards.
  • Domestic Violence: The Body Shop has a line that donates money toward ending domestic violence. Eco-bonus: This year they’ve added a reusable tote bag to the line. This one’s a three-fer (gift, charity and eco-friendly!)
  • Breast Cancer: There are a shit-load of sites catering to breast cancer. The Susan G. Komen Founation is out there and corporate sponsor FordCares.com, with stuff to benefit the cause. And I’m sure you can spot the pink ribbons by now when you’re walking the malls.
  • Cancer: Lance Armstrong’s ubiquitous Livestrong charity. (I bought a bag of their bracelets last year and used them as bows on my gifts.) Also, the American Cancer Society sells gifts.
  • Literacy: One of my biggest passions! Since 2005 Borders Books has teamed up with First Book, which strives to make sure every child has at least one book. For $5 you can get a book or a plush toy that benefits Kohl’s Cares, a program that promotes literacy in communities across the country.
  • Banned Books: Yes, it gets it’s own special category. The American Library Association has a nice little site with goods to promote open minds and open thought. Good for stocking-stuffers.
  • Poverty: Natalie Portman’s Big Change: Songs for FINCA is an iTunes-only collection of songs, the purchase of which benefits FINCA International, an organization dedicated to ending poverty in developing countries.
  • Hunger: Donate food! Salvation Army, local shelters, even local schools in low-income neighborhoods. In Henderson, there is St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church downtown, which offers hot evening meals and takes donations every day. Perhaps the most unique gift you can give is an animal through Heifer International, which helps impoverished people in developing countries by giving them a hand-up not just a hand-out.
  • Education: The American Indian College Fund has a shop with gifts and cards.
  • The Arts: The Art Institute of Chicago (one of my favorite places in the world) has an amazing catalog of gifts and cards, which benefit the museum. Ditto, the Smithsonian. And for music lovers, there’s the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation.
  • Animals: For my money the World Wildlife Fund is where it’s at. They have some good donation options with gifts attached. (And don’t try to get me to list PETA, because they piss me off.)
  • Environment: American Forest has partnered with companies like Ikea and Paul Mitchell to offer ways to plant trees, offset carbon emissions and generally help the earth.

Greeting Cards & Gift Wrap:

  • UNICEF. Oldie but a goodie with great cards and gifts.
  • With Good Cause Greeting Products you can buy holiday cards that benefit the charity of your choice from a pretty healthy list. It’s kind of awesome.
  • Drawbridge is a San Francisco-based arts program for homeless children. They sell cards with designs by homeless children as well as gifts.

Misc. & Brands:

  • Kenneth Cole lists eight charities that the company contributes to in various ways, usually with exclusive lines dedicated to benefiting a cause such as HELP USA, which assists the homeless.
  • Marie Claire has a pretty nice charity shop benefiting a variety of causes.

Don’t Forget Your Favorite Orgs:

  • Local causes need your help all year long so check out their websites for their wishlists (such as Safe Nest, SAFE House, Shade Tree, HACA). For a donation of just $1.79 you can buy someone a hot Thanksgiving dinner at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission. Miracle Flights for Kids is based here but helps children all over the country get to medical care they need.
  • National causes, too. Planned Parenthood, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Boys & Girls Clubs, Red Cross — whatever floats your boat.


  • Love this! In the December issue of Lucky Magazine the letter from the editor, Kim France, basically espouses the ideas of this very post. (They don’t have it online – drat.) She reasons that if someone on your shopping list “has it all” and is “too hard to shop for,” then why not donate to their favorite cause(s) and then lists seven of her own: Children’s Rights, Minds Matter, The Gorilla Foundation, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, The Trust for Public Land, Project HOME and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. [added 11-12-07]
  • Urban Outfitters has some quaintly sweet — and uber cool — Christmas gifts with a purpose. Items include the chocolate graffiti bar collection by Alison Nelson with a portion of proceeds benefiting Allstars.org (which promotes arts education for inner-city kids); the Grow a Good Cause heart which gives $2 to Camp Heartlands (which helps kids suffering from poverty, HIV/AIDS and other tough shit); the Linus Blanket benefits Project Linus which gives homemade blankets to sick kids; the Humane Society Snoopy plush doll which gives $5 to the Humane Society. [added 11-14-07]
  • Buy a Zac Posen tote and support TeachersCount. [added 11-19-07]
  • 100% of the profits from Rock for the Cure merch goes to help breast cancer charities. [added 11-19-07]
  • 50% of the profits from the Simmons Jewelry Co. “green bracelet” goes toward education and empowerment programs in Africa. [added 11-19-07]
  • Like John Lennon? How about Amnesty International? Then Make Some Noise is for you. It’s covers of Lennon’s songs, the sale of which benefit AI. [added 11-19-07]
  • Want to help Hurricane Katrina survivors? Try this Budding Hope pendant. Or the St. Christopher charm bracelet by Alex and Ani. Or this New Orleans blues CD from Putumayo Music. Buy a turkey for a family in Baton Rouge for $25 at brfoodbank.org. [added 11-19-07]
  • The Avon Foundation has gifts that benefit causes including breast cancer and domestic violence. [added 11-19-07]
  • I hate skin cancer, but I love Marc Jacob’s $20 tees that spread awareness about melanoma. [added 11-19-07]
  • Buying someone a new cell phone for Christmas? Donate the old one to help victims of domestic violence through programs like Call to Protect (the Body Shop takes phones for this cause as does some retail cell phone stores) or the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Likewise, if you’re upgrading your laptop send your old one to a child in one of 61 countries through Worldcomputerexchange.org.[added 11-19-07]
  • Get a sweet gift that gives back at eBay’s Giving Works program. [added 11-19-07]
  • How could I forget NOW? My bad. [added 11-19-07]
  • 100% of sales of the $100 Ten Thousand Things “Trickle Up” necklace benefits Trickle Up, a global charity that grants money for new businesses to low-income women and people with disabilities. [added 12-9-07]
  • Robert Montagnese is donating all proceeds from his book Lucky 7 to Ovarian Cancer Research. Here are some other ways. [added 12-9-07]
  • The Killers have partnered with the Product RED campaign and are donating 100% of proceeds from their Christmas single “Don’t Shoot Me Santa.” And they say Las Vegans have no heart. [added 12-11-07]
  • Like the show House? Me too. And even more I like the show’s T-shirt campaign to support the National Alliance on Mental Illness. [added 12-11-07]
  • This is awesome! You can be a part of the Make It Right sustainable rebuilding program in New Orleans. (You may have heard that Brad Pitt is involved, donating his time and money.) They’ve got merch, including some items donated by Mr. Pitt himself. Pretty sweet. [added 12-12-07]
  • Liberate someone from their junk mail and help the planet at the same time by giving a gift subscription to Green Dimes. [added 12-12-07]
  • Tide is donating all proceeds from its vintage tee sales to help victims of natural disasters (such as Hurricane Katrina and California wildfires). [added 12-19-07]

10 thoughts on “A holiday shopping list with purpose

  1. I feel you on that. I’m not even ready for Thanksgiving. But I know people who are like ready to go holiday shopping in January. So I thought I better get this out sooner than later. If I went according to my shopping habits, I’d have gotten this out on Dec. 1.

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  3. Here’s another holiday gift with a purpose and a cause. . .how about Step Up Women’s Network’s Honor Your Inspiration Initiative


    For each donation in the name of your inspiration, a token gift is sent to your inspiration (and you depending upon the donation amount) and an underserved teen girl receives a product or service that will maximize their time taking part in Step Up’s teen programs in NYC, LA, and Chicago.

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  6. I just checked out Floria’s post and it is awesome. I highly recommend that people who are interested in my list, check out hers. She has a good take on issues like sweatshop labor and the “true cost” of our gift-giving.

    As for sweatshop-free sites, I like Conscious Consumer (http://www.newdream.org/consumer/clothing.php) and No Sweat Apparel (http://nosweatapparel.com/).

    Another thing I’m pretty into but didn’t really address much in the original post is seeking out Fair Trade items. We can make such a huge impact in the lives of farmers and workers in other countries by choosing fair trade items when it comes to coffee, chocolate, flowers and bananas. Fair Trade Certified (http://transfairusa.org/) has great info on this. In particular, buying fair trade not only improves the lives of workers, it can help the earth, too.

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  8. Definitely the right perspective, I’m starting early this year to avoid the stress, and your site puts first things first, thank you

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