how to make gift-giving an opportunity to be generous
I know, I know....how can giving gifts NOT be an opportunity to be generous? You're GIVING. My thought here is that we can INCREASE our our generosity beyond the recipient of the gift by purchasing through companies and organizations that use our dollars to impact communities rather than line the pockets of big companies. Don't get me wrong - I love Target and Amazon for the convenience they offer. When my kid's backpack zipper won't work and they need a replacement by tomorrow morning, YOU KNOW I'm making a trip to some big box store that can rescue us in our time of need.
However, we make a rule in our home that all gifts must be purchased from one of the following:
a local business
a company that gives back or provides opportunities for marginalized individuals
Gifts are something we can plan for. We know that Christmas is coming. Teacher appreciation week is on the calendar. Birthday invitations come a month early.
There's no reason we can't make a plan to put our gift dollars to good use in the world, blessing not only the recipient of the gift, but also those on the other side of the purchase.
With the gift-giving season upon us, here are some of our favorite ways to shop:
Local Businesses - when we walk down mainstreet and buy a gift from the people that live in our town, we bless the recipient of the gift AND our neighbors!
Silent Auction Fundraisers - bid on an item or experience to give away later, knowing your dollars are supporting a non-profit
Wishlists for your favorite non-profit - here's one for a local horse ranch that we love. I'd be willing to bet that the website of a charity you love has something similar. A few years ago, my entire extended family chose to nix presents altogether and each purchase something from this wish list. We brought all our purchases to our Christmas get-together and instead of opening gifts, we shared what we bought for the ranch. Then, a few days later, I was able to drive a carload of needed items out to the ranch! We all agreed it was our best Christmas yet!
Amazon Smile - type in smile.amazon.com into your browser and get the same shopping experience you're used to with Amazon, except that .5% of your purchases will go toward whatever worthy cause you choose under the SUPPORTING tab. If you're going to shop through a big company, this is a great way to let everyday spending add up!
Samaritan's Purse - this organization is most famous for the shoebox phenomenon, which we've participated in often, but we also love to receive their gift catalog. In it, you can purchase things like:
books for a school
tuition for a young girl
health care for a mom and baby
livestock for a struggling farm
labor and materials for digging a well to provide a community with fresh water
We've loved this option for teachers and daycare providers. We purchase things like books or playground balls and then give our teachers a card saying that a gift that makes us think of them and their passion for teaching has been given in their honor. We've gotten such great feedback on this! 90% of contributions go directly to the programs.
Compassion International - similar to Samaritan's Purse - they have a gift catalog with many options for helping real people. We sponsor kids through Compassion and have even had the opportunity to meet them. We've seen this organization from the inside, visiting local offices in the Dominican Republic and I can say with certainty that they are using every dollar possible to help their communities.
Feed My Starving Children Market Place - this has been a favorite place for us to celebrate birthdays and other holidays by packing food with family and friends to be shipped overseas. However, we also love to purchase gifts here. They have coffee, unique kitchenware, ornaments, clothing, bags and other household items made by artisans from Haiti and Latin America. I love that they tell you how many meals will be provided by the purchase of each item. It's fun to give a gift with a note that says, "This made me think of you AND the purchase provided 45 meals for hungry people!"
Host a party with an organization like NoonDay or Trades of Hope. You can order directly from both sites, which offer beautiful jewelry and home decor that is ethically sourced and fair-trade certified. Or, if you're in the mood to get all your gal pals together for some treats and shopping, you can host a party by finding a consultant near you! Items come with a card that tells the story behind the artisan who created it.
I love that our family has instituted this rule for gift-giving. It gives us all motivation to be organized (no last-minute shopping around here!) and reminds us to be intentional about spending dollars that will positively impact the world. I'd love to get to a point where we are doing MOST of our spending in this way, but this was a huge step in wise and generous spending for our family.
What are your favorite ways/places to purchase gifts? Tell me in the comments! I'd love to add to my list this year!