Meaningful charity for picky recipient
December 15, 2007 10:20 AM   Subscribe

What's a good charity to give money to in someone's name as a Christmas gift? Caveats: The intended recipients are quite concerned with poverty and the third world. Ideally, the charity will send some kind of card that I can give the recipient to inform him, and they would send the card in time for a December 25th exchange.

My brother and sister in law are very hard to shop for, but their feelings are enormously hurt if their Christmas gift isn't sufficiently thoughtful. My lady and I aren't big on gifts. We like to eat and drink and be with the family, but the actual opening presents bit just isn't as meaningful for us. We don't have a ton of money to spend and don't even usually get gifts for each other. As a result, my brother is nearly always disappointed and gives me crap about what he perceives as insufficient love and thought.

This year, we're making some homemade nibbly snacks to give to the family with bottles of wine (we're calling it cocktail hour in a box), but the brother and sister in law are picky vegetarians who don't care for wine and find our epicurean tendencies frivolous.

In order to give him something meaningful without trawling the stores for some piece of crap, we were thinking a charity donation might fit the bill. I'm wondering about one of those microcredit programs. Any suggestions for that or another kind of program? I'd rather avoid one of those buy a pig/cow/sheep things, as I think they get those pretty often (they are indeed very hard to shop for) and they might think it was a cop out.
posted by jaybeans to Shopping (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite sells gift certificates- this gives them the chance to choose what kind of business they'd like to invest in, which could be fun!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:24 AM on December 15, 2007 [2 favorites] allows you to donate to a school in their area. I did this for my X-mas gifts this year. I'd tried to pick based on the occupation. For example, an arts program for an artist.
posted by k8t at 10:28 AM on December 15, 2007

Instead of giving to one of those Sally Struthers organizations, check into buying animals for impoverished people in developing countries. I can't remember the name of the org., but I usually get a catalog around xmas time. You can buy a goat which will provide milk for a family, chickens for eggs, cows for milk, guinea pigs for protein, etc. I'll try to think of the name of the org. and post later.
posted by HotPatatta at 10:34 AM on December 15, 2007

Heifer International: Ending Hunger, Caring for the Earth
posted by HotPatatta at 10:37 AM on December 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

FINCA is a well-respected microcredit org. You can get more info at
posted by HotPatatta at 10:41 AM on December 15, 2007

Heifer International is a phenomenal charity. They buy animals (geese, chicks, cows, goats) for families in needy situations and start breeding programs in poor villages around the world- everywhere from Malaysia to Kenya to the state of Nevada.

You can choose your gift by what you're giving: $150 buys a llama for a needy family in latin America, $20 gets a flock of chicks.

With your gift comes a gift card and a picture of what you've helped to give. I love these guys.
posted by arnicae at 10:46 AM on December 15, 2007

Oops. I guess I'm seconding HotPatatta. Should've previewed. . .
posted by arnicae at 10:47 AM on December 15, 2007

the kenya mobile library brings books via camel (!!) to nomadic tribes in kenya. they are so hungry to read, books end up in tatters all the time and they constantly need to be replenished.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:53 AM on December 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oxfam unwrapped do some cool gifts. You could get them a toilet installed somewhere that really needs it.
posted by handee at 10:57 AM on December 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

All my charity money goes to cancer research. Everyone, everywhere benefits.
posted by three blind mice at 10:59 AM on December 15, 2007

I have twice given gifts of a donation to Partners in Health, combined with the book Mountains Beyond Mountains.

Partners in Health is an awesome organization providing health care to the extremely impoverished in places such as Haiti, Rwanda, and Peru. Along with providing health care, they train locals to work in health care and work to help people with housing and clean water, in order to make the help sustainable.

The book Mountains Beyond Mountains is the engrossing story of the founding of Partners in Health. It's interesting and motivating. It totally changed my perspective on poverty.

PIH will let you make a gift in someone's name, and will send a card or letter, but I doubt it would make it in time for Christmas. The book works well for the tangible piece of the gift, though. Oh, and PIH also sends out a newsletter every so often that will keep the recipient of the gift in touch with the latest news of what they're doing.
posted by greenmagnet at 11:14 AM on December 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

Oops, I meant to post this with my answer. Here is a link to the Charity Navigator page for Partners in Health. They consistently get the highest rating (4 stars). I'd suggest checking out Charity Navigator for whatever charity you are considering; it'll help you be confident that most of your donation actually goes to help people.
posted by greenmagnet at 11:19 AM on December 15, 2007

Seconding Kiva -- it's a great concept, and it's much more directed & personal than a typical charity donation.
posted by lisa g at 11:33 AM on December 15, 2007

If you're willing to think about a real gift at all, you might consider Ten Thousand Villages -- it's basically the same kind of charity, but they sell real stuff. They have real stores in a number of places, but I don't know where you are.
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:14 PM on December 15, 2007

I don't know if they can get a card in time for the 25th, but the River Kids Project is helping stop child trafficking in Cambodia by providing education and jobs.

They have a store with some awesome handmade things, but I really doubt those'll ship in time.
posted by Katemonkey at 12:22 PM on December 15, 2007

See also my recent question
posted by Pants! at 12:40 PM on December 15, 2007

posted by illek at 1:23 PM on December 15, 2007

Menu for Hope -- it benefits the UN World Food Program and you could potentially send them nifty prizes if you/they win one of the items up for raffle. Either way, the World Food Program benefits.
posted by nnk at 1:31 PM on December 15, 2007 is the remote area medical corps. they provide free health and veterinary care worldwide. is doctors without borders (medecines sans frontiers), a much larger organization that provides medical care worldwide.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:28 PM on December 15, 2007

What about One Laptop per Child? It's a great idea and fits the third world dimension without the livestock.
posted by B-squared at 6:27 PM on December 15, 2007

Another vote for Doctors Without Borders. They are non-religious, don't take government money, and also don't take money from industries associated with pharma, alcohol, mineral extraction, and arms.

They are doing phenomenal work in the area of ending malnutrition with an product called PlumpyNut. You can send them this video when they get the card.
posted by kimdog at 6:59 PM on December 15, 2007

Seva, gifts of service
posted by garethspor at 8:11 PM on December 15, 2007

Seconding greenmagnet's suggestion for PIH & the book. They're also selling a calendar this year that might make a good gift as well.
posted by mogget at 8:30 PM on December 15, 2007
posted by goml at 9:50 AM on December 17, 2007

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