While holiday shopping can be fun and satisfying, there are times when it feels more like an obligation than an opportunity to give something meaningful. For the people on your list who have everything, or the ones who are pleased by nothing, why not give the gift of giving? Every nonprofit can use a little help these days, and your contribution can be made in honor of that hard-to-buy-for loved one. Here’s what some local nonprofits advise.
1. Give money.
“Cash is king at the holidays,” says Stephanie Camden, director of development and marketing at Family Support Network, an organization that provides free counseling for needy families. “With the economy the way it is, a lot of non-profits are nervous about year-end giving.” If you can donate appreciated stock or make a stock transfer gift, Camden says that both helps an organization and saves money on your taxes.
One of the simplest ways to give a gift while benefiting a cause is to make a donation in someone’s name. “If you’re trying to shop for that person who really has everything, giving a gift in their honor around the holidays would probably be really nice for them,” says Lynn Huelsmann, director of development for Independence Center, an organization that helps adults suffering from mental illnesses. When you make a tribute gift, most organizations will send a card or certificate and a pamphlet about what they do to the recipient. The Ronald McDonald House, which provides a place to stay for families traveling to St. Louis for their children’s medical treatment, allows donors to purchase a personalized, engraved brick which becomes part of the walkway at the Ronald McDonald house.
2. Buy your holiday cards from non-profits or charities.
Many organizations sell holiday cards and ornaments, including Family Support Network, Catholic Charities, Our Little Haven, Friends of St. Louis Children’s Hospital, the St. Louis Zoo, the Missouri Botanical Garden and Court-Appointed Special Advocates of St. Louis County, among others.
3. Go shopping for an organization’s wish list or adopt a family.
If you must shop, why not shop for a cause? Many charities, and especially ones that work with kids, create wish lists during the holidays. You can buy toys or purchase equipment that an organization needs. Our Little Haven, for example, which provides residential care for abused and special needs children, posts a list of desired items on their Web site, along with special wishes like gift certificates to Fitz’s in the Loop and Science Center memberships for the kids
A number of organizations also have ‘adopt a family’ programs, in which they provide donors with a wish list from one of the families the organization works with. Donors purchase and wrap presents from the list, and you can always buy the gifts in someone’s honor.
4. Shop at stores that donate a portion of proceeds to charity.
There are many resale shops to choose from in the St. Louis area if you want some of the money you spend to go to charity. The Independence Center has an upscale resale shop called the Clubhouse Shop, which specializes in furniture. “The beauty of resale is that you get an item that no one else has probably seen,” says Huelsmann. Other resale shops that benefit charities include ScholarShop, Blue House Boutique, the National Council of Jewish Women’s Shop, Sweet Cherrity and Upscale Resale.
5. Throw a party to benefit your favorite cause.
Ann Julien, development team member at Our Little Haven, suggests writing a charity’s wishes (like toys for individual kids) on paper ornaments, then hanging the ornaments on a tree. Whatever ornament a guest plucks from the tree is his or her assignment. Or ask guests to bring gifts to put under the tree, which you’ll then donate to a charity. Julien especially recommends this kind of party for church groups and companies.
6. Make something with friends.
At the holidays, many groups come in to help out as a team at the not-for-profit children’s hospital Ranken Jordan, says Elaine Hickerson, director of development there. “They make ‘huggie’ blankets, put together wish lists for the kids or bring in meals for the families of the kids here.” Contact an organization to find out if there’s a project your group can do.
7. Donate your time.
Get out of the mall and read to kids at the hospital or sort food for a local food bank. The list of volunteer opportunities in St. Louis is long, and you can find virtually anything you want. A good place to start looking is www.volunteermatch.org, where you can search by interest area or by zip code.