People love buying gifts that give back, as they feel like their gifting choices are doing more than helping the people they love. Plus, let’s be honest, gift giving often feels like a wash. I buy my brother a gift, he buys me one, and do we really like them better than what we’d have just bought ourselves? Probably not.
I know the purpose of a gift is to choose something specifically for the recipient. It’s the thought process that makes both giving and receiving gifts feel so loving.
But when we’re in a rush (which, when aren’t we?), it can feel hard to make everything as thoughtful and personal as we’d like.
That’s part of the beauty of gifts that give back. There are so many ways to make them personal and benefit multiple people.
So let’s dive into the different types of gifts that give back. Here, we’ll talk about 4 specific categories of gifts you can give:
- Charitable donations in lieu of gifts
- Gifts that support local communities
- Gifts from companies that give back through philanthropic efforts or charitable giving
- Gifts that give back to the environment
Charitable Donations in Lieu of Gifts
Charitable donations in lieu of gifts, usually in the recipient’s name or honor, are perhaps the best known gifts that give back.
We probably all know people who have taken a year to say, “I’m not shopping for anyone. Everyone gets a donation in their honor.”
I did this one year, and it was a really special year. People loved it, though I admittedly don’t think it’d go over so well were it my go-to each year.
There are a few important things to keep in mind when donating as a gift for someone:
- Be careful to choose a reputable organization as the donation recipient. Do your research.
- Choose the donation recipient based on the person the “gift” is for.
I’ll give you some examples. The year I gave charitable donations as gifts, I considered the interests and causes that meant the most to the people receiving the “gifts.”
For Husband’s late grandmother, I donated to the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division, the division of the US Army her husband served in during WWII.
For my animal loving late grandfather, I donated to the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia, where he lived. For my grandmother, who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease (and who had a son who did, as well), I donated to the Parkinson’s Foundation.
If you were giving this type of gift to me, it would make sense for you to donate to an organization that deals with something I’ve struggled with. I had postpartum anxiety, so I’d be touched by a donation to Postpartum Support International. I suffered from recurrent miscarriage, so donating to an organization that supports grieving parents, like First Candle, would be perfect. I’ve put abundant time and resources into fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)–a donation to LLS in my honor is obvious, and I’d love it.
The important aspect of this type of gift is that you make it all about the recipient, not about you and where you want to donate. Don’t donate to one cause and “gift” that to all 20 people on your list. Make it personal.
Gifts that Give Back to Local Communities
By shopping through small businesses, you’re giving back to families and communities instead of large corporations. However, even through large corporations, you can support local workers and entrepreneurs.
When you order a car through a rideshare service, for instance, you may be supporting Uber or Lyft, but you’re also supporting the driver who is working to earn a living. (I know, the ethical implications change when you consider the struggle of taxi drivers, but I can’t be expected to solve every problem here. Believe me, I wish I could.)
My favorite way to support small businesses, aside from walking into locally owned shops in my own town, is through Etsy.
I’m a huge proponent of shopping on Etsy because you’re supporting small businesses running online, or partially online stores. Plus, so many of the gifts are unique and customizable!
Here are a few quick Etsy shoutouts to some of our favorite Etsy stores!
Sunnie State of Mind is great for people who love everyday inspiration and jewelry that’s only a little bit edgy. Oh, and Harry Potter + Game of Thrones fans!
Know someone who’d love the whimsical, colorful looks I rock in Spring and Summer? This Atlanta-based company is where I get them. All orchid jewelry is made with REAL, PRESERVED orchids (amazing!).
For a little less whimsical and year-round options, the earrings I’m wearing in this photo are stunning!
A variety shop that’s especially great for women and mamas–cute tees, onesies, wine glasses, coffee cups, and so much more. Often with entertaining sayings and other cleverness that we adore!
Simple, classic, customizable jewelry. Great for people who love sentimental jewelry, bar necklaces, and loss mamas!
Great for new mamas and babies! Precious blankets and crib sheets that are to die for.
Buying a gift for travel-loving parents of little ones? Buy giving a gift card to BabyQuip, and you’re offering them the opportunity to have baby gear (think anything from strollers and carseats to cribs to toys!) delivered directly to their destination.
Gifting BabyQuip is a double whammy of supporting small and local. BabyQuip is still a relatively small business in itself. It also works with individual contractors, so when you rent items, you’re supporting someone local (usually a mom or dad!), as well.
(3) Gift a Babysitter
Purchase someone you love a gift card for a babysitting app, like Bambino! You’re giving them a night off, and you’re also helping someone local earn an income. It’s a win-win in terms of giving back.
To make your gift go even further, pair it with a gift card to a good, locally-owned restaurant. Date night for your friend or loved one–sans baby–is now a go. They’ll love you forever, trust us.
Bambino is currently available in many cities across the US. Tell your loved one to use code “KATY2019” for $10 off their first sitter service!
Shop Small Businesses to Give Back
We all have small businesses we love (I hope!). Many are out your doorstep, but others can be accessed online.
Here a just a few of my favorite small businesses that sell online. They all make amazing, gift-worthy products and are run by truly wonderful human beings.
(1) Leena + Lu
The absolute best pajamas I’ve ever worn. Made from organic Peruvian cotton. Owned by 2 Peruvian-American sisters living in Atlanta.
A diaper bag in your pocket? Yes, please! Gift this to every new parent you know, and support an Atlanta mom’s entrepreneurial spirit! Learn more about this diaper bag alternative here!
I know I never talk about food here, but this stuff is amazing, and the owner has a huge heart. Does someone on your gift list love grilling out? Give back to small businesses by giving them Big Lou’s!
Gifts from Companies that Give Back
Looking to buy gifts from companies that give back? We love that! This is not an exhaustive list, but it tells you plenty of companies that focus on giving back that are great for gift giving!
When trying to choose gifts that give back, people often wonder, “what companies give back to the community?”
(1) Leena + Lu
Leena + Lu is a TRIPLE WHAMMY. Support a small business, an environmentally friendly company, and one that gives back to the community all by gifting the world’s most comfortable pajamas.
By using organic, chemical-free cotton, these jammies are hypoallergenic, and “the sleepwear is not only better for you, but also the farmers, workers, and the world we live in.” Oh, and they donate to tons of charities, supporting breast and blood cancer research. Win/win, right??
S’well water bottles have given to NYC public schools, and communities around the world, with hopes of eliminating plastic waste. They’ve also partnered with UNICEF with the aim of providing clean drinking water across the globe.
(4) Love Your Melon
Give your favorite dog lover a monthly box for their fur baby! 10% of profits from BarkBox are donated to animal shelters.
For every book purchased through the site, Better World Books donates one to someone in need. Literacy is an essential element in the fight against poverty!
Bombas socks are famous in the parenting world for creating tantrum free mornings with seamless socks.
The company is also giving. For every pair purchased, a pair is donated to homeless shelters across the US. They’ve also recently expanded to donate other new clothing to homeless shelters, a definite win for anyone wanting to give a gift that gives back!
Gifts that Give Back to the Environment
We’re seeing more and more concern about what our children’s environmental future will look like.
According to 2017 research, the best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to have 1 fewer children than planned. In a recent social media survey, 60% of Undefining Motherhood readers cited the environment as a consideration in their family planning.
Obviously, you’re a group that cares about the environment, and we bet your friends are, too! That’s why this list is perfect for you. These gifts that give back to the environment can have a huge impact, and they are things your friends will love.
S’well water bottles began with a mission to rid the world of plastic water bottle waste. They keep your drinks cool or warm for 24 hours, so who doesn’t want to carry it around to refill?
Oh, and S’well is the fastest growing female-owned company in the US, so that’s pretty awesome.
(2) Reusable straws
Reusable straws are a favorite around my house. I have super sensitive teeth, so straws are necessary for me. Having reusable ones is a game changer. My recent favorite is these bamboo straws that come in different sizes!
Sanuk offers incredibly comfortable shoes, many of which are vegan or made from Hemp. And they collaborate with the Surfrider Foundation, a grassroots nonprofit that works to preserve clean oceans and shorelines.
(4) Sprout Pencils
Sprout Pencils work just like normal pencils, with one crazy catch. When you’re done with them, you plant them, and they grow into herbs or flowers. WHAT?
What are your favorite gifts that give back?
Interested in other gift guides? Check out some of our favorites.
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, toddler mom, and owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband (affectionately known on the internet as “Husband,”) son (Jack), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society has historically placed too many expectations on women, defining womanhood and motherhood in a way that is restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Scary Mommy, Motherhood and Social Exclusion, and various other podcasts and websites.