Christmas Shopping? 10 Ways to Give — and Give Back

Worried that Advent has become synonymous with Christmas shopping, but still pressed for time to cross off names on your Christmas list? Worry no more! We’ve got 10 ways to give this season — intentionally, fairly, and in ways that may surprise (and educate) your loved ones.

  1. Support a mission that shapes the world

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    Sometimes the gifts you give sit in the closet; other times, they change the world. Why not give a donation in your loved one’s name to an organization that works at making the world a better place? Your gift might feed the hungry — check out Bread for the World; your gift might shelter the homeless — take a look at Covenant House; or you might just try to knock out all the Corporal Works of Mercy — Catholic Charities.


  2. Give a gift to your loved one — and families around the world

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    Some organizations will tell you exactly what your gift will do — and show you how far a little can go. Buy a goat or a water buffalo for a community through Heifer International. (After all, how many water buffalos will be under your Christmas tree this year?) Or give a gift of a well, new farm equipment or emergency shelter through Catholic Relief Services. (Really into this one? Check out these great activities from CRS specifically for faith communities this Advent! And don’t forget to put up your Gift of Hope tree!)


  3. Empower others to do good

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    Blessed Mother Teresa had a saying: “Some give by going, others go by giving.” That’s exactly what a gift to one of these organizations can do — you’ll be empowering missionaries and volunteers to do the good work of the Gospel around the world. Might be a tricky thing to wrap. Check out the Catholic Volunteer Network for a list of great organizations. (You want to know my favorites? Rostro de Cristo, Salesian Lay Missioners and Jesuit Volunteers Corps.)


  4. Adopt a child — and change a life

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    Why not build a new relationship this season? Sponsor a child — or give that sponsorship as a gift. A few dollars a month guarantees an education and more. Get started with Unbound or the Starfish Foundation.


  5. Satisfy a sweet tooth — with justice

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    Be intentional about the chocolate you buy this Advent and help cocoa farmers around the world in the process. SERVV and Equal Exchange both sell delicious treats and tasty gifts — CRS Fair Trade can vouch for them. And don’t forget to make your Advent calendar fair trade, too!


  6. Dress to impress in ways that matter

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    Have a lot of clothes on your Christmas list this year and afraid that your purchases might support unjust labor, sweatshops and unfair wages? Shop worry free — and consult this list of fair trade-approved apparel makers!


  7. Give a home decoration — and a story

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    Everyone loves treasures from around the world, but we don’t always have the time — or money — to book our plane tickets and buy them in person. Fear not. Give gifts with international flare and support local artisans through SERVV and Ten Thousand Villages. (Want to see some of the most popular gifts? Click here, here, and here!)


  8. Clean up injustice

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    Who doesn’t want to do that? Buying some soap will help — and there are plenty of ways to do so while supporting local communities and promoting fair labor practices. My favorite? Hand in Hand Sustainable Suds. But check out here and here, too!


  9. Heal the world

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    Advent reminds us that Christ enters the world to heal us. What better time to reach out to heal others? Small efforts can radically change an individual’s life — and thus build up our global family. Damien House in Ecuador works with those with Hansen’s Disease, or leprosy. Or, change the lives of children by doing this or this.


  10. Build up your community

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    At the end of the day, there are plenty of ways to give in your own community — and give to others. Donate to a local theater in someone’s name. Give some money to your church to honor a loved one. You could adopt a family, visit the local shelter, or run a coat or sock drive.


This is a season of giving — and giving back. What will be under your Christmas tree?

Disclaimer: The charities and recommendations in this blog are favorites of mine, but might not be favorites of yours! This is a chance to do your own research. Take a look at CharityWatch and GiveWell to get started.