Top 5 “alternative gifts” to give this holiday season

By Maheen Mustafa –

Trends in charitable giving have evolved in these past few years. Instead of giving a lump sum amount of money to a single, large nonprofit organization, people are now trying to make their gift-giving more personalized and meaningful. There are lots of choices but it is difficult sifting through the clutter, especially during the holidays when many of us are shopping for alternative gifts that help others.

We all face the same dilemma each year – How do I know if my gift will actually make a difference? What organization should I give to? Who needs the most? While there are many local charities out there, my blog will shed light on those particular organizations that are working for a cause in developing countries. The following are five “alternative gift” ideas that will make your holiday giving more meaningful and will definitely make your money count:

Send a net. Save a life: Did you know that every 60 seconds a child dies of malaria? Believe it or not, a mosquito net is a life-saving solution. Even as little as a $10 contribution to Nothing But Nets will go a long way in fighting malaria – a leading cause of death among children in Africa.

Finance a fistula repair surgery in Ethiopia: Fistula is a debilitating child birth injury that results from an obstructed labor – leaving women unable to control leakage of feces and urine, and living in social isolation. The condition is all too common in countries like Ethiopia, where access to maternal health resources is scarce. Think of these women this holiday season. Finance a fistula surgery through Hamlin Fistula USA and restore a woman’s dignity.

Give a goat to a family in need: A single goat can make a tremendous difference to a family in a developing country. A goat provides milk, cheese and yogurt. Fun fact – a healthy goat can give up to 16 cups of milk a day! A goat also gives an income boost by producing offspring and extra dairy product. Donate to Heifer International to give a goat to a family in need; your gift will make a big difference.

Support an orphan in Myanmar for 3 months: Imagine making an orphan happy, healthy, and cared for this holiday season. Your donation to World Concern will provide three months of financial support for an orphan; all his needs would be taken care of by a personal caregiver.

Help a woman entrepreneur: Women can play a key role in earning income, sending their children to school, and helping their families gain access to healthcare. In developing countries, just a small amount of money can help women start small businesses. Your donation of $50 to Mercy Corps can help female entrepreneurs in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and other countries get on the road to prosperity.

Still can’t make up your mind? How about donating locally, while thinking globally? Seattle International Foundation funds hundreds of Washington State nonprofits that help people living in poverty to build better futures for themselves and their families. The funds finance work in developing countries that ranges from providing clean water to offering micro-loans to building small businesses.