Gifts That Keep on Giving

Looking for something a little different to stick under the tree? It seems like all the  charities and non-profits crawl out of the woodwork this time of year to tug on your heartstrings and ask for money. So I’ve picked a few that will do everything in their power to stretch your dollar as far as it will go.

First up is Kiva. I lurrrve Kiva. They have “gift cards”, where you make a donation and it’s sent to someone else (friend, family member, random person on Facebook you vaguely remember from high school) for them to loan out. Because that’s what Kiva does – they partner with micro-lenders all over the world to provide small, low-interest loans to people in developing countries. They might use the money to repair their car so they can provide their town with a taxi service. Or maybe they need more stock for their bodega. Or possibly to buy a goat to add to the herd. Whatever they’re using it for, you can read about it first and see the repayment plan. And once the loan has been repaid, you can lend the money again! Best. Gift. Ever. It keeps on giving. My dad gave me my first Kiva card three years ago, and I’m still re-lending the money.

Want to donate a cow? How about some chickens? With Heifer International, you can do just that – and enable a family by providing not just food, but a source of income – each recipient receives training on what to do with the animal in question (milk the cow, sell the chicken’s eggs, etc) and they pass it on to the next family. You can buy an animal, or you can donate to one of their projects. Plus, goats. Who doesn’t love goats?

World Vision International is a Christian organization with a global reach, working to provide clean water, health care, and education to children in need. They even have their own microfinancing program. Their transparency is amazing – they post their financial statements and accountability reports on their website for anyone to view. Their policies are available for download. They’ve got papers posted to their website on the effectiveness of their programs. There’s a lot of discussion about how far your donation really goes when you send it to some place like the Susan G. Koman Foundation, and with World Vision, you can see where your money’s being used.

Looking for something a little closer to home? Want to donate your time instead of money? Check out your local church or synagog for opportunities. Or try Rebuilding Together – they’re an organization that repairs and modifies homes for low-income residents. You can volunteer to help clean up the yard (I worked on one that had blackberry bushes ALL OVER), or repair the front steps, or paint a room. (They’ll take monetary donations, too, if you’re so inclined.)

Happy giving!

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