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Ideas for Shopping, Giving and Being Charitable

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From LISA DIETLIN

This is the busiest time of year for charitable donations. Half of all individual donations are made in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Of course, this is the prime shopping season too!

There are opportunities for people to combine both, shopping and giving. If you want to support charitable causes with your holiday shopping, you can buy products that dedicate a portion of sales to charity. Some big name retailers have programs:

Suggestions for shoppers

• Macy’s. Write a letter to Santa and help make wishes come true. Bring a stamped letter to Macy’s addressed to Santa at the North Pole, and drop it in the special Santa letterbox. For each letter received, Macy’s will donate one-dollar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
• And… the letters do indeed make it to the North Pole. Macy’s will bring the letters to the Post Office and mail them off to Santa.

Programs benefitting military families:

• Sears has an interesting program. Its “Heroes at Home Program” benefits Military families.
o Here’s how it works. You make a donation to its Wish Registry, and then the donations are used to purchase Sears gift cards. The gift cards are distributed to all registered military families.
o You can go to Sears online and read some heart-warming stories from military families about their wishes.

Program with military involvement:

• Toys for Tots
o Over the 62 years of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program, Marines have distributed more than 400 million toys to more than 188 million needy children
o This charitable endeavor has made U. S. Marines the unchallenged leader in looking after less fortunate children at Christmas
o Over its 18 year life span, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation has supplemented local toy collections with more than 81.3 million toys valued at more than $487 million; plus has provided promotion and support materials valued at over $6.3 million

With the state of the economy right now, many people are searching for bargains. Bargain hunters can find great gifts in online auctions…. anything like this for charities? Yes! Here’s a fun way to shop, give to a charity, and do it from the comfort of your home….

• Bidding for Good is a Website that offers online auctions for charities. There are more than 6000 nonprofits and 16,000 thousand items up for auction (www.biddingforgood.com)
o You browse by charity, or by products. You can also search by city or state. For example, type in Chicago and all the auctions going on for Chicago-area charities will come up – so if you want to, you can keep your charitable dollars local.
o And here’s an interesting fact: 91% of the money raised on Bidding-for-Good goes directly to the nonprofit. Founded in 2003, Bidding for Good has raised over $134 million.

Just Give.org
o Offers the give-now gift card.
o It’s a unique, customized charity gift card that can be redeemed for at the nearly 1.5 million charities.
o The cards work like this: when you buy and send the gift card, your receipient can use it to make a donation to any charity they want to support

• Tips
o Purchasing a charitable gift is a “one size fits all” proposition…there are gifts for everyone on your shopping list, especially those hard to shop for people in your life
o They are practical and you are helping a charity, a person, a family through a meaningful gift
o Think locally. There are many local charities in need of clothing and food donations. See what you can do locally to provide a coat for a child, or sponsor a family for the holidays through a “giving tree”
o Make it a family affair! Ask family members, or your group of friends, which causes or organizations they’d like to support, and in addition to your usual holiday giving, give a charitable gift in their honor
o Remember time is a valuable gift! If you don’t want to give a monetary gift, or a product, you can always give your time. Make plans now to volunteer your time to a social service during the holiday season.

Charitable Gift Catalogs

In this time of year, when the hustle and bustle of the holidays usually means hustling and bustling in stores to purchase gifts for your family and friends and for those “hard to buy for” individuals, charitable gift catalogs might be the answer to some of your shopping challenges!

Overview: Charitable Gift Catalogs are becoming more popular every year. They are an easy way for individuals to do their holiday gift shopping while serving a larger good. From UNICEF to Heifer International, there are now hundreds of ways for individuals to do their holiday gift and card shopping while supporting a nonprofit organization.

General Information
• How do I find one of these charitable gift catalogs?
• Is it too late to order now?
• Does the “purchased” product for an individual or family in a developing or third world country really get to them?
• Can I really buy a cow? Goat? Chickens? And if I do, how does this help someone?

Benefits to utilizing charitable gift catalogs
• By utilizing charitable gift catalogs for your holiday needs you are making a difference for many people.
• Recognize there are three ways for nonprofit organizations to raise money: memberships; products and services; and private philanthropic dollars. Charitable Gift Catalogs fall under the “products and services” area and many nonprofit organizations are utilizing them to raise funds for their projects.
• For those “hard to shop for” individuals, charitable gifts on their behalf or in their honor, such as purchasing a cow, pig or chickens for an individual or family in a developing or third world country can be an excellent and meaningful choice.
• By purchasing your holiday cards and/or gifts through a charity gift catalog, you are supporting that charity and hence the mission of the charity!
• By utilizing charitable gift catalogs, it becomes an easy way to “kill two birds with one stone”…so to speak!
• Many holiday charitable gift catalogs are online…so once again, you can let your fingers do the walking!

Things to consider before donating
• Review all the catalogs you receive or search on the website of your favorite charity to see if they have products for sale that you can purchase for gifts.
• Recognize that some folks on your list will still want a “traditional gift” to open during the holidays; perhaps you can directly make a gift or honor someone who has passed away.
• Share this idea and information with others in your family; it might be too late for this year, but there is always next year (and birthdays and anniversaries to remember!)
• Remember, your giving reflects your intentional expression of your values and passion; so shop wisely!

Other Information
• A lot of schools ask their students to “sell” items for fundraising drives through catalogs that support the school
• Many of these “catalogs” target items that can be utilized during this time of year such as wrapping paper, candy, cookie dough, etc.

• Tips
o Charitable Gift Catalogs and Gift Cards are a terrific way to give a holiday gift and help people in need. As you shop this year, consider honoring your loved one by giving a meaningful gift that keeps on giving and making a difference.

o A few popular gift catalogs include:
o UNICEF’s Inspired Gifts Program www.InspiredGifts.org
o Heifer International www.Heifer.org
o JustGive.org www.JustGive.org
o World Vision www.WorldVision.org
o Defenders of Wildlife www.Defenders.org

Catalogs to consider:
o Show Heifer International website catalog (it depicts the various animals) http://www.heifer.org/
o Show Save the Children website http://www.savethechildren.org
o Show Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog website http://www.samaritanspurse.org/
o Show the UNICEF catalog: http://www.unicef.org/index.php

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