The days are shortening, the heat is cooling, and you’re just starting to get comfortable with the idea of a pumpkin spice latte. But what’s this? Targeted ads for living Christmas trees? An invite to your neighbor’s latke-making party? Yep, it’s true: once fall rolls around, it’s time to start thinking about the holidays—and that means thinking about gifts.
The all-pervasive consumerism of the holiday season can be weird for nonprofits. It’s all about nudging people to do some good with their money rather than just investing in three more Google voices and Beanie Babies for their grandkids (yeah, we know we’re two decades late. They’re coming back any day now!). But there are plenty of ways to up your conscious gift-giving game, hitting that sweet spot at the nexus of doing good, feeling good, and giving good gifts. What follows is our ultimate gift guide, which you can share with your staff, supporters, and friends alike. Do good, make other people happy, and support causes that matter—this holiday season or any time of year.
Gifts You Made Yourself (even if You’re Not a DIY-er)
While store-bought gifts are great, homemade gifts are something special. Even if you’re not a crafter, here are some DIY gifts that are sure to give the recipient a case of the warm-’n’-fuzzies.
1. Compound butter
Even if you can’t cook, you can make fancy butter! All you need to do is mash up room temperature butter with some gourmet additions, like fresh herbs, honey, or minced fruit. Shape, freeze, et voila!
2. Face masks
The skin-soothing kind, not the COVID kind (though if you can sew an N95, by all means!). You can make these with a few ingredients from the “natural” section of your local grocery store. Mix ‘em up, put your mixture in a mason jar, and you’re good to go.
3. Snow globe
Take a mason jar, make a cute li’l scene by gluing plastic animals and trees to the inside of the lid, and put some water and glitter in the jar. Screw in the lid, flip, and it’s a homemade snow globe.
If your friends are hippies (and we hope they are), you can tie-dye them some groovy T-shirts or far-out dish towels.
5. Cake in a jar
Layer all the dry ingredients for cake, brownies, or cookies in a cute mason jar. Add ribbon. Give with love.
Pro-Tip: If you take away anything from our DIY gift tips, it should be to start saving mason jars and ribbons now.
6. Pet treats
If you’re not much of a baker, maybe it’s time to take your skills to a less discerning audience. Dog or cat treats require few ingredients and fewer skills. And if you overbake them, guess what? The pup-parents will never know because they’ll still be devoured.
7. Infused booze
By putting some slices of ginger or a few sprigs of rosemary in your cheapest vodka, you can transform it into an artisan product. Seal the deal by putting the finished infusion in a cute bottle with a hand-drawn label.
For the Christmas tree, Hanukkah bush, or Festivus pole, a homemade ornament is always a welcome addition. Play to your artistic strengths: shape and bake some dough, make some origami, or roll a pinecone in glitter and put it on a string. The sky’s the limit!
Gifts that cost nothing
They say a light purse is a heavy curse, but we say it’s an excuse for creativity! If you’re coming up a bit short this holiday season, fear not: you can still show your love with these 100% free gift ideas.
9. A curated playlist
We used to give mixtapes; now we give playlists! You can still write up a little card with all the tracks and tie it with a bow.
10. Adventure jar
You know those days when you wake up and think, “If only I had an adventure planned!” Write up a bunch of mini adventures (think picking fruit at a farm or taking a self-guided tour of the local street art) on slips of paper and put them in a jar. Gift said jar.
11. Li’l creature sitting
If your gift-givee has a kiddo, doggo, or planto that needs care when they’re busy or out of town, give them an IOU.
12. Recipe book
Type up all your favorite recipes, print them out, and pass ‘em out to friends and family far and wide.
Let’s be honest: you have some unopened bottles of wine sitting on your shelf, gathering dust. Put a bow on ‘em and regift away.
Gifts for specific occasions
Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa—we know them well. But what about those slightly lesser-known holidays during the rest of the year–those that require specific gifts? We’ve got you.
14. One-year anniversary: paper
To celebrate that blissful first year of marriage, paper is the traditional gift of choice. Think stationery, a meaningful book, or custom art.
15. Diwali: sweets
Sweet treats are a sweet way to commemorate the festival of lights. While Indian sweets are customary, you can also give chocolates or homemade cookies.
16. Ramadan: dates
Muslims often break their Ramadan fast with dates, making these sweet and sticky fruits the perfect Ramadan gift.
17. Hogmanay: lucky gifts
On the Scottish New Year’s Eve, friends and family head put to visit each other’s houses, bringing lucky gifts, like whiskey, black buns, shortbread, coal, and salt.
18. 21st anniversary: fire
When your marriage can drink, you give your significant other… fire. So, maybe a scented candle? Or some lava? Fireball whiskey, def.
19. National Coffee Day: tea
JK, JK! It might not be a big deal for everyone, but for us, this is a crucial holiday. You can celebrate by buying a latte for the person behind you in line.
Gifts That Give Back
First up, some goodies that just so happen to support great causes. When you give one of these, your giftee will appreciate the gift itself and the thought behind it.
20. MODO Sunglasses
It’s a universal truth that everyone looks better in sunglasses. And MODO makes looking like a celeb guilt-free with their "Buy a Frame – Help a Child See" program. For every frame you purchase, the company provides free and comprehensive eye care for a child in need.
21. ONEHOPE Sparkling Wine
What’s more festive than a nice bottle of primo sparkling vino? How about a bottle that gives back? This holiday season, give a bottle of sparkling wine from One Hope. The company has donated over $8 million to local and global causes, and every purchase supports their work.
22. Grounds and Hounds Coffee
If your intended recipient loves nothing more than a hot cup of coffee with their furry best friend—and who among us doesn’t?—then Grounds & Hounds is the way to go. The organization donates 20% of all revenue from its organic, fair-trade coffee to support animal rescue initiatives and organizations.
23. Satya Jewelry
Earrings and bracelets and pendants, oh my! Satya’s gorgeous jewelry will make your loved ones shimmer inside and out. That’s because they donate $1 from every order to their eponymous foundation, which provides aid and opportunities for children around the world.
24. Love Your Melon Beanies
When the weather outside is frightful, it helps to have a cozy and delightful hat. Love Your Melon is on a mission to provide a knitted beanie to every child in the US who's dealing with cancer. As of 2022, the company has given out over 150,000 hats to children all over the country. They also donate half of all their profits to charities working to end childhood cancer.
25. LSTN Sound Co. Headphones
Everyone loves music, which makes headphones or earbuds from LSTN a great (and generous) gift. But the company also recognizes that not everyone has the gift of hearing. So, they partner with the nonprofit Starkey Hearing Foundation to help give people hearing aids through their proceeds.
26. LUSH Charity Pot
There’s so much to love about winter (puffy coats! Cocoa! Elves!), but one of the less desirable aspects is how it dries out your skin. Thankfully, LUSH charity pot’s creamy lotion keeps your skin smooth and soft, with sustainable ingredients that support regenerative agriculture around the world. Finally, 100% of the proceeds go to grassroots organizations.
27. YOOBI Journal
Sure, your friend can type out their feelings in Microsoft Word, but that’s no fun! Instead, get your buddy’s creative juices flowing with a journal from Yoobi. You can even throw in some pens and pencils to seal the deal. With every purchase, the company will donate a school supply to a kid in need.
Gifts you shouldn’t give
When it comes to gift-giving, it’s the thought that counts—and giving a gift that offends is the last thing you want to do. Before you swipe your credit card, review these taboo gifts.
Alcohol to Muslims
Alcohol is haram (forbidden) for Muslims, so stay away from anything alcoholic—including perfumes or rum cakes—when you’re shopping for Muslim friends and family members.
Any sort of pet besides a rock
A puppy seems like a great gift idea until you realize it’s a 50-year commitment (we’re very optimistic about dog lifespans over here), requires near-constant attention, and costs thousands of dollars each year. Pets are never a good gift unless someone has specifically asked for one.
Instead, consider a symbolic adoption and send them a cute photo of the pup they’re supporting!
Anything in sets of four to East Asian people
In many countries, including Japan, China, and South Korea, “four” is the equivalent of “13” in the US. The word “four” sounds similar to “death” in these languages, so giving four of something is really bad form.
Flowers are a lovely gift, but you need to do your research before giving them. In Russia, avoid flowers bundled in even numbers, yellow flowers, lilies, or carnations, which are associated with funerals. For the French, it’s chrysanthemums (used for funerals), red roses (those are reserved for lovers and very good friends), and carnations (which are considered unlucky).
Thinking of buying your Italian sewing buddy a pair of scrapbooking scissors this December? Put those things away. In many cultures, sharp objects symbolize severing a relationship—never the message you want to send to someone you care about.
Anything to someone in Yemen or Saudi Arabia
Unless you’re super-duper, friendship-bracelet-status BFFs with someone in Yemen or Saudi Arabia, giving a present is going to be beyond embarrassing and likely offensive.
Donating in someone’s name
We haven’t yet discussed the gift of donating in someone’s name. It’s a wonderful way to feel good, do good, and make someone happy, as long as you keep a few guidelines in mind.
Choose the cause carefully
If you’re donating in someone’s name, you should know what they support and what they don’t support. Donating to a pygmy hippo rescue when your friend has a fear of aquatic mammals isn’t a gift for them; it’s a gift for you. Think long and hard about what matters to them.
Do your research
Just like when you’re donating in your own name, you want to choose an accredited charity that’s transparent about their finances and practices.
Send a letter
A tangible record of your gift makes it that much more memorable. You can also send a handwritten note explaining why you chose the charity.
We all want to give the perfect gift—the one that causes our loved one’s eyes to light up with excitement and also maybe achieves world peace. Whether you’re planning to shop ‘til you drop or collect mason jars ‘til you drop (if you’re going the DIY route), we hope these tips have you ready to spread goodwill to all, and good gifts to all, this holiday season.
What’s the best gift to give for the holidays?
It totally depends on the person. As corny as it sounds, think about what they really love and give from the heart. In our opinion, personalized or homemade are always a crowd-pleaser.
Can I give money as a gift?
In most cases, sure! And if you want to have some fun with it, you can fold the bills into cranes or hearts, fold it into a surprise ball, or give it all as $1 bills and throw it in the air. Whee!
How do you donate to a charity in someone’s name?
Most nonprofits have the option to donate in someone’s name on their donation page or have a separate portal for tribute donations. If not, call the organization.
What are some creative gift ideas?
In addition to some of the ideas above, giving an experience is a fun and creative gift. Plan a whole itinerary around their interests, write it down, and gift it to a loved one for a truly unique gift.