Wednesday, November 25, 2009

'Tis the season to give back ... by shopping

Struggling to find the balance between giving gifts and giving back this holiday season? Money's tight. Period. But thanks to some innovative organizations, you can delight your family and friends with gifts that do a world of good. Here's a quick run down of my favorite gifts that give back.

Stop Traffick Fashion -- Slavery still exists. Against their wills, people are bought and sold to serve in the sex, hard labor and drug trafficking industries.  Stop Traffick Fashion helps the victims of human trafficking by selling cute handbags and jewelry made by the victims themselves.

Kiva and WoKai -- If you're giving a gift to someone who also loves to give back, consider giving a gift certificate to a microlending organization like Kiva or WoKai. With these organizations, individuals can make small loans of $25 or $50 to a specific entrepreneur in the developing world trying to lift him or herself out of poverty. Kiva was a thought leader and innovator in this field, and WoKai (meaning "I start") focuses solely on China. Perfect for families trying to teach their kids about generosity. As a family they can read through the bios of loan recipients and decide who to help!

Crop to Cup --   For the foodies and coffee-lovers in your life, purchase some family farmed direct-trade coffee from Crop to Cup and include some photos of the farmers who grew it with your gift. The owners of Crop to Cup call themselves Farmer Representatives and work directly with farmers across the globe to ensure the quality of the working conditions and the coffee beans (check out their blog here). Crop to Cup's business model cuts out many of the middle men who typically make a hefty profit on coffee sales. On top of paying farmers 20% more than the average market rate for their beans, Crop to Cup gives 10% of company profits back to the farmer community in donations. And, they have great coffee!

Ten Thousand Villages -- A non-profit organization selling handmade handicrafts and home decor, Ten Thousand Villages exists to provide fair income to artisans in the developing world who would otherwise unemployed. Your purchases can help these individuals afford food, education, health care and housing.  Plus, their store is filled with incredibly fun stuff with an ethnic twist! Order online or see if there is a store in your area.

Toms Shoes -- For each pair of shoes you purchase from Toms, the company donates a pair to a child in need. Many children in the developing world go barefoot, walking to school, doing chores, fetching water, etc., placing them at risk. TOMS is committed to providing shoes to these children  through a very innovative business model -- which makes it earn my respect! Thus far, TOMS has donated over 150,000 pairs of shoes to children throughout the world. Just looking at those incredibly cute feet on the left... how can you resist?

World Vision -- Finally, for the person who already has everything and really doesn't want anything, but the generic "I made a donation in your name" just doesn't cut it -- think about World Vision. For $35 or less, you can provide education for one child, five ducks for a family, or clothes for children. When you give a gift in someone's name, that individual will receive a card detailing the purchase that was made and the impact it will have. I personally believe in the good that World Vision does -- when I was in college some of their education materials transformed my perspective, stirring up in me a passion for the developing world. They've really been around a long time and they're definitely worthy of our support.

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