10 Ways You Can Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is This Holiday Season

UPDATED: May 22, 2024
PUBLISHED: December 17, 2020

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Like everything else in 2020, the holidays are in upheaval. Even a visit to see Santa means a socially distanced photo complete with face shields and masks. But unlike everything else in 2020, gift giving has not been postponed. In fact, maintaining simple traditions like wrapping and gifting presents can be an incredible stabilizer when it feels like the world around us is anything but. 

The trick in this chaotic year is to find gifts that are meaningful and relevant. A lot of people on our lists are working from home, eating takeout at home and ordering their essentials from home, so gifting anything that signals dressing up or going out is bound to gather dust. Concerts, movies, wine tastings—events that make us crave a shared experience with strangers—don’t make much sense this year, and diamond earrings don’t exactly match the house slippers and sweatpants that have become a part of Zoom call chic.  

What Christmas in 2020 calls for is an upgraded gifting experience. We need the enduring traditions that celebrate those we love, while acknowledging the unsettling effects of this difficult year, and the intensifying needs and suffering around us. 

Generosity is always important, but in the wake of an industry-crushing pandemic, shopping as compassionate consumers who use their money to honor loved ones while making a positive impact on the people and world around us is the redeeming gift that 2020 has been waiting for.

Don’t worry, philanthropic gifting doesn’t have to mean a one-size-fits-all donation to a charity that your recipient might not feel connected to. Shop this customized catalog of ideas to find perfectly tailored gifts that give back for every person on your list: 

Your Boss 

Make a wise investment in your career and in the lives of underserved women microentrepreneurs with the unique Kiva gift card that allows your boss to choose from a wide variety of qualified borrowers, make an investment, and help other business-minded leaders from around the world get their venture off the ground. When the loan is repaid, they can cash out or choose another borrower to invest in, keeping the cycle of loans that change lives growing for months or years to come. 



Have you ever considered wrapping a flock of chicks, an alpaca or even a water buffalo? Heifer International provides animals to kids and families across the globe that will create sustainable food and income sources for generations to come. Choose a pig, duck or hive of honeybees, or give a gift card so kids can choose an animal and learn about how their choice will improve the lives of children just like them. Not only will kids learn how their choices can help end poverty, they’ll also begin the journey of discovering how they have the power to change the world—starting now.



The next generation cares deeply about social justice and bettering the world around them. They also know exactly how hard life can be inside the walls of their high school. Show them you care about their experiences with a donation to Teen Life, an NGO that works with schools to create on-campus small groups that provide a safe place for students to talk about their anxieties, stress and loneliness with trusted adults. Sponsor individual students or an entire campus and empower the teen in your life to become a change-maker at their own school.


The Foodie 

The restaurant industry has been hit particularly hard this year, but donating to the LEE Initiative, who has been working hard to provide free meals and essentials for unemployed restaurant workers, can let your loved one become a partner in keeping the dining industry afloat. If you love seeing something special wrapped under the tree, the LEE Initiative has also partnered with Maker’s Mark Bourbon to create a limited-edition CommUNITY Batch to support relief efforts for restaurant workers. Maker’s Mark is even donating the cost of production of these small-batch bourbons, so every single cent goes to service industry workers in need. And, as always, a shot of bourbon pairs beautifully with a gift card to your foodie’s favorite local dive.


Animal Lovers

For the people who love their furry friends, a holiday honor gift to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) allows you to mail a card letting your recipient know of your donation to protect displaced pets. Many local SPCA offices also publish wish lists of items their state-specific locations need. Search for the SPCA in your loved one’s home state and click to order dog food, blankets, leashes and more that will be sent directly to their regional office. You’ll demonstrate that you care about what concerns the pet lover in your life, while helping the four-legged friends they love so much.


The Fitness Buff

Have an exercise enthusiast on your list? Surprise them with prepaid entry fees for two at an upcoming fundraising 5K, half marathon or marathon—depending on their (and your) stamina. You’ll burn calories, support a worthy cause and invest sweat equity into your friendship. A few races to consider: Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Wounded Warrior Carry Forward 5K and the Wings for Life World Run, which offer virtual entry so you can skip the crowd and run safely no matter where you live. 


With most leisure travel off limits for a season, surprising a loved one with plane tickets on Christmas morning isn’t feasible. Instead, choose their favorite travel spot and donate to support the arts, national monuments or city parks in that area so that they’ll be ready for your arrival when vacations and work trips pick back up where they left off. A few ideas: The Statue of Liberty—Ellis Island Foundation, the National Parks Conservation Association, Keep NOLA Music Alive and Conservation Northwest.

For Her

Whether she loves to get lost in a luxurious at-home spa day or redecorate her space, Thistle Farms offers plenty of gift options for women who love to make a difference. With ethically sourced tea and coffee from around the world, handmade textiles and décor designed by marginalized artisans, and jewelry handcrafted by survivors of abuse, Thistle Farms uses proceeds from sales to help women seeking to escape trafficking, prostitution and addiction live healthy and financially independent lives.


For Him

Combine his love for that first morning cup of joe with his favorite spirit and support firefighters in the process. Fire Department Coffee infuses the flavors of bourbon, whiskey, rum and tequila with their bold coffee beans to create a unique flavor profile that can be enjoyed any time of day. Run by active and retired firefighters, 10% of proceeds go to support first responders who have been injured mentally or physically on the job.


Stocking Stuffers

Generosity is just as important even when it’s stocking sized. Try Hand in Hand soap, crafted by a sustainable soap company that provides soap and life-saving hygiene resources to children in Haiti and Cambodia; Charity Pot, a body lotion by Lush, who donates 100% of the price to support grassroots charities; Socks that Give Water, fun patterned socks by Conscious Step, a company that funds access to clean water for impoverished communities;  MAC Cosmetics VIVA GLAM, of which 100% of the proceeds support frontline partners working to change the world; and LifeStraw, a personal water filter perfect for the camping enthusiast that also purchases one year of safe drinking water for a child in need.

Photo by @mockingbirdstudios/Twenty20.com

Sarah Paulk is a freelance writer known for her interviews with the thought leaders behind multimillion- and multibillion-dollar brands. Her cover stories and feature articles have appeared in Success from Home, Direct Selling News, Empowering Women and more. Sarah is also an author and ghostwriter who helps her clients bring their memories and research to life in book form. Connect with her at her website www.sarahpaulk.com.