Give a Little Meaning

Check out these nonprofit meta-gifting sites

Give from the heart this Christmas.© Getty Images

Green folks have known for years that there are many great alternatives to traditional consumer holiday presents. Have a loved one who loves the oceans? Why not “adopt” an octopus, dolphin, sea turtle or penguin in their name? Oceana makes it easy, and you pick out an adorable plush toy or cookie cutter to hide in their stocking or place under the tree.

Or “adopt an acre” for someone through the Nature Conservancy, and they can feel good all year long, knowing their gift directly supports threatened wildlife. There are many other worthy “alternative gifts” available, from supporting organic apple trees to providing sustainable appropriate technology to impoverished people around the world.

These gifts can be wonderful, but they can also be time consuming to seek out and manage. Now there are a number of sites that simplify the process, and provide an additional layer of education and community.

This is the idea behind San Francisco-based, a nonprofit that aims to make charity giving easy and fun. The user-friendly website is powered by a database of a whopping 1.5 million charities all over the world. According to Director of Programs Andrea B. Lloyd, JustGive is about “providing donors with unique programs and services that allow them to donate quickly, conveniently and safely,” as well as giving people the tools to become “informed, knowledgeable donors.”

Adopt an ocean animal, such as a seal, from Oceana, and give the recipient a cute plush toy or cookie cutter.© Oceana

One encouraging sign is that, according Lloyd, JustGive has seen an increase in donations of 8% over last year — an indication both of some economic recovery and reassurance in the power of charitable gifts.With so many charities linked through JustGive, you’re sure to find something that fits every person on your list. In other words, you don’t need to end up like the out-of-touch boss on the sitcom Friends who “rewarded” his employees with support to a ballet that they didn’t much care for. On JustGive you can make a donation to a favorite charity in someone’s name, purchase a GiveNow Charity Gift Card or choose a pre-selected gift collection, featuring four charities working on a single issue. The site also has a gift registry system.Another nonprofit charitable gift-giving service is Changing the Present, which has a database of 1,500 benefactor organizations. The site also has a fun feature called the “Stupid Gifts Hall of Shame,” which features outrageous pet outfits, hideous apparel and useless gadgets, perfect for getting you in the mood for making the holidays meaningful.

The site Charity Gift Certificates works with more than 100 nonprofit organizations. Givers choose the amount and delivery method (one option is on corn-based cards), and the recipients choose the charity. Charity Gift Certificates is run by the nonprofit Special Kids Fund.

There are literally millions of choices for greener, more meaningful gifts than the standard fare being hawked on TV. Gift portal services can help make the process as easy and fun as can be, so why not try it this season?

BRIAN CLARK HOWARD is the Home and Eco-Tips Editor of The Daily Green.