December 1, 2014 9:42 am
Updated: December 1, 2014 12:26 pm

Gifts that make a difference: 4 charitable holiday gift ideas

For $75, Plan Canada says you can provide families with access to clean water.

Plan Canada/Handout

TORONTO – Tired of giving tube socks, homemade sweaters or electronics as a holiday gift? Charitable gifts can be a way to pay it forward and give a gift that makes a difference this Christmas—especially if you wish to give an unconventional present that cannot be easily purchased on store shelves during Cyber Monday.

For a mere $20, for example, the international relief and development organization For the Hungry (FH) will allow you to literally give a “piece of crap” to a family in a developing community. In return, you will receive a thank you card that you give to your friends, family, or clients to recognize that a gift was made in their name.

This  unique gift is used by farmers to produce environmentally-friendly organic fertilizer to grow prolific veggie gardens

Food for the Hungry/Screengrab

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“This unconventional gift is used by farmers to produce environmentally-friendly organic fertilizer to grow prolific veggie gardens,” reads the gift description. “Whatever your friend or family member did to deserve this gift, there’s a family in a developing community that will be incredibly grateful!”

READ MORE: Is crowdfunding the new frontier for charitable donations?

The act of giving charitable gifts can work in unison with Giving Tuesday, which takes place on Dec. 2. The national day of philanthropy acts as the opening day of the giving seasons where charities, companies and individuals are encouraged to join together to “share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others.”

To date, over 3,000 individuals, charities, businesses and organizations have already signed up as Giving Tuesday partners. If you wish to get involved, pick a cause you like (or one you care about) and do your research before you commit toward any gift or charity.

Not sure where to start? Here’s a look at our holiday charity gift guide.

Gifts of hope (a bed net, a goat or school essentials)

Plan Canada offers “Gifts of Hope” such as goats, mosquito nets, school essentials for a child and “clean water for a family” in its catalogue.

When you purchase a goat, for example, a family in need in another country receives the livestock. The animal is there to provide the family with milk, which means essential protein for growing children, and the sale of offspring means an income to pay for housing, health, food and schooling.

Plan Canada says that goats may make us chuckle with their antics, but the impact they have on a family’s health and income is profound.

Plan Canada/Handout

Items purchased with a green symbol next to them will be “matched with a donation by a government, foundation or organizational partner, giving more children the gift of hope, helping more families live better lives, and transforming more communities.”

READ MORE: How to choose a charity this holiday season

Some critics argue that giving a farm animal is a poor way of helping a family in the developing world as “families often do not know how to care properly for the animals they receive and even if they do, they may not have the resources to look after them properly.”

Depending on your purchase, the gifts range from $10 (mosquito net) to $75,000 (building a school in Kenya). World Vision,  Oxfam and Food for the Hungry also provide similar gifts.

Gifts of light

If you wish to give a gift that changes the life of someone closer to home, the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) allows you to purchase gifts in the name of a loved one for a CAMH patient with its “Gifts of Light” catalogue.

“For someone living with mental illness, the holidays can become a place of loneliness, depression and hopelessness,” said CAMH. “Your Gifts of Light holiday donation will bring a bright light to even the darkest place for a patient this year.”

For someone living with mental illness, the holidays can become a place of loneliness, depression and hopelessness, says CAMH.


For $20 to $25, you can provide CAMH library facilities with books and magazines or tools and supplies needed to plant, water and care for the therapeutic gardens.

For those with a bigger budget, the $500 “client scholarship” gift will allow a client to enroll in a college, university or an apprenticeship program.

Gifts of kindness

According to a recent report, in 2012 alone, 30 per cent of the $5.2 billion raised via crowdfunding globally went toward social causes.

The “Giving Tuesday Challenge,” asks people to choose a cause, create a crowdfunding campaign and encourage family and friends to donate money in exchange for an “act of kindness” from the individual.

“We wanted to create an initiative that was easy to do, that spreads a little love in people’s communities and raises money for charity at the same time,” said Sabrina Nicosia, the campaign’s executive director, in a previous interview with Global News.

READ MORE: Want to avoid toy overload this holiday? 5 alternative gift ideas for kids

The gift of time

Volunteering is a great way to help people in need during the holidays. This time of the year, charities like food banks are often inundated with requests for help. In exchange for a physical gift, tell your gift recipient that you are giving your time to those in need in their honour.

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