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It’s a holiday shopping story most of us know all too well: You start wondering what to get people around the time Starbucks busts out the red cups, but work is slowly pulling you into a black hole and it’s dark out all the time, so you struggle to think of the perfect gifts for everyone and end up procrastinating the whole process.
Then suddenly it’s mid-December and you scramble to find something decent on Amazon Prime and pull an all-nighter to wrap everything, only to feel pretty much defeated when you present your last-minute, stress-filled gifts.
Whether your holiday shopping conjures up endless mini panic attacks, you have someone on your list who insists they “don’t want anything,” or you just want to spend your hard-earned dollars on something other than gift cards and holiday pajamas, we got you.
Put your cash toward a good cause your fam and friends care about by making a donation to a charity in their name.
Whether they’re a weekend trekker all about wildlife conservation or a teacher who wants to help kids across the globe learn to read, a donation to a cause they care about will make them feel totally seen.
To eliminate literally all possible guesswork (and decision fatigue!), pick a charity to gift to from our hand-picked list.
Curated based on areas of interest (like the environment or education), every organization here has been thoroughly vetted to ensure your donation actually goes toward doing some good. (That Charity Navigator score you’ll see for each? It evaluates the true effectiveness of organizations based on a number of criteria.)
Each charity recommendation also includes a creative gift idea, so your loved ones have something fun to unwrap that reflects the spirit of the donation you’ve made in their name. It’s a win-win-win situation.
Charity Navigator score: 100 / 100
A great pick for your favorite plant-based eaters or watchers of “Animal Planet,” WildAid works to reduce consumption of wildlife products around the world, especially by fighting poaching and illegal fishing.
How to gift it: Donate in honor of an animal advocate and they’ll receive a customizable e-card to commemorate the gift. Pair it with an organic, free trade, cruelty-free skin cream from Meow Meow Tweet, or one of these animal-themed dessert plates from Anthropologie.
Charity Navigator score: 95.75 / 100
For the last 25 years, Water.org has helped people around the world gain access to clean water, enabling them to attend school, work, take care of their families, and contribute to their communities. Every donation helps bring safe water to those who need it most.
How to gift it: Make a donation in your loved one’s name and print out a customizable e-card thanking them for their contribution. Pair it with an eco-friendly water bottle, like the stainless steel Klean Kanteen Insulated Classic.
Charity Navigator score: 85.58 / 100
Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) works through a number of nationwide chapters to protect and restore natural habitats and species across the United States.
The NWF partners with local organizations all over the United States to take a hands-on approach to preserving the natural world around us, making it worthy of a donation in the name of the nature lover in your life.
How to gift it: In addition to making a regular online donation in honor of your favorite conservationist, you can also adopt an animal in their name for $50.
If you go the “adopt an animal” route, it comes with an adoption certificate, calendar magnet, poster, and stuffed animal. If you stick with a standard donation, get your environmentalist a copy of “National Parks: America’s Best Idea” to keep on their coffee table.
Charity Navigator score: 92.14 / 100
Since 1910, the National Urban League has been working to help African Americans and other underserved urban residents gain economic self-reliance and power through public policy advocacy and a slew of community programs, such as college prep and work skills trainings, home ownership classes, health screenings, and insurance advising.
Any civil rights advocate in your life will be thrilled to support the National Urban League and its 90-plus affiliate groups nationwide.
Charity Navigator score: 90.29 / 100
For the arts lover, or anyone who champions empowering diverse voices, make a donation to Creative Capital, a foundation that helps artists across the United States grow through grants, counseling, organized meetups, and career development services, like peer-to-peer workshops and retreats.
Creative Capital prioritizes diversity and promotes artists raising interesting and important conversations about our society.
How to gift it: Select whether to make a general donation to directly support artists with specific focuses (like social justice, LGBTQ rights, or racial and gender equity) or help fund artist workshops and retreats.
Along with the donation, enjoy and support local voices with your loved one with tickets to an upcoming arts festival or music show. Check out Festivals.com or Sofar Sounds to find a cool event near you.
Charity Navigator score: 89.7 / 100
A champion of the education of women across the globe, the Women’s Learning Partnership comprises 20 women’s rights organizations throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The organization conducts research, creates trainings and educational materials, and supports workshops that promote campaigns for legal reforms and policies that promote women.
How to gift it: In addition to making a donation in honor of your favorite feminist’s name (they’ll get an email recognizing the donation), buy ’em a “Future Is Female” tee.
Charity Navigator Score: 93.94 / 100
For any advocate of the LGBTQ community, a donation to The Trevor Project helps fund free crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ people under the age of 25.
The Trevor Project works to create a safe, accepting, inclusive environment via phone, online chat, or texting for youth in need. The organization also create resources for the loved ones, community members, and teachers of LGBTQ youth.
How to gift: Make a donation to support crisis counselor training and make free counseling possible. The Trevor Project will send you or your loved one a thank you email. Gift the donation with the “My Life Story—So Far” journal, which gives you a template for capturing the ups, downs, and memories big and small throughout your life.
Charity Navigator Score: 92.82 / 100
The charitable organization for all of the health science nerds out there, this nonprofit research center works on the cutting edge of biological and health science to identify cures and solutions for all sorts of conditions, including Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
Every donation helps the Salk Institute continue its work, which has contributed to more than 580 U.S. and global patents.
How to gift: You can gift a general donation or send your cash straight to a specific area of Salk’s efforts, such as cancer research or women and science. Couple your donation with a funny “Research, What Happens Between Coffees” mug or “I Periodically Need Caffeine” mug.
Charity Navigator Score: 91.89 / 100
Founded in 1979 and consisting of more than 500 affiliates, NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, making it an organization truly worthy of a donation in honor of your favorite mental health crusader.
NAMI provides educational programs for individuals, families, peers, and healthcare providers; advocates for public policy that supports mental healthcare; and provides a toll-free help line and support groups for people in need. The organization also spearheads the national Mental Illness Awareness Week.
Charity Navigator Score: 90.81 / 100
Anyone passionate about spreading awareness of and support for the issue of substance use and addiction will truly value a gifted donation to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, which works to support families with a child who has a substance use disorder.
Their help line and parent coaching services — and huge well of written resources — provide invaluable information and support to family members of youth with addiction. Donations go toward training help line specialists and parent coaches as well as creating additional resources about substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery.
How to gift: In addition to making a donation (which comes with an e-card) in the name of your advocate, gift them this “Hope Dealer” hat.
Charity Navigator score: 98.23 / 100
By partnering with schools and in their 1,500 centers throughout the United States and Canada, Girls Inc. provides mentorship, pro-girl environments, and educational programs that equip girls to navigate the world and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.
Founded in 1864, this organization has been advocating for girls’ education and pro-girl policies and legislation since the OG feminist movement.
Charity Navigator score: 95.47 / 100
An easy way to make an impact on a classroom in the United States, DonorsChoose creates a space for teachers to seek donations for their classroom’s needs and projects. You can sift through pages and pages of teacher’s requests. Filter by grade and school subject to find a project to donate to.
From there, you’ll see exactly where your donation will go, from classroom essentials and art supplies to musical instruments and basic needs items, like snacks and clothing.
How to gift: In addition to a satisfying, direct donation to a classroom in need, gift your education activist with a Bullet Journal. This smart, quick-hit journal will help keep thoughts, to-dos, and reminders organized for life.
Charity Navigator score: 92.92 / 100
Gift a book lover with a donation to Room to Read, which promotes literacy by providing resources and training to communities across the globe in order to support primary school reading programs.
Working mostly in Southern Africa and Southern Asia, Room to Read has partnered with more than 37,000 schools so far. In addition to promoting literacy, they also work to help keep girls in school throughout secondary school with mentorship programs and financial support.
How to gift: Make a donation in your bookworm’s name (you can elect to send them a notification email), and nourish their love of reading with a copy of one of this year’s best-selling books, like “Educated” by Tara Westover or “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens.
Charity Navigator Score: 98.23 / 100
Active in all 50 U.S. states and around the world, Direct Relief works to provide doctors in underprivileged and disaster-stricken communities the supplies and medicines they need to help those in need. The organization’s recent projects include wildfire relief in California and Hurricane Dorian relief in the Bahamas.
How to gift: Select a specific project or cause to direct your donation to, and pair it with a gift local to the community your donation benefits. For example, pair a donation to the California wildfires with this Northern California Homesick candle or a bottle of Robert Mondavi Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon.
Charity Navigator Score: 94.74 / 100
First established in France, Doctors Without Borders now has 24 chapters around the world, including one in the United States. The organization’s goal: provide independent, neutral, and impartial medical aid wherever in the world it’s needed most.
Doctors Without Borders is currently engaged in medical projects in more than 70 countries, focusing particularly on providing aid to refugees and fighting infectious disease.
How to gift: Donate in honor of your humanitarian (you can schedule when you want them to receive an e-card), and pair it with a scratch map for them to track and share their travels.
Charity Navigator Score: 87.4 / 100
This Los Angeles–based disaster relief agency operates in 100 countries, with about half of its current work done in the United States. Operation USA supports health and education programs that help children and families recover and thrive in the wake of disasters.
The group also delivers all sorts of supplies and equipment to communities in need. They’re currently supporting wildfire relief in California, Hurricane Florence relief in North Carolina, and flood relief in the Midwest.
How to gift: In addition to a donation, which includes a customizable e-card, get your homeland supporter a monogrammed leather passport holder.
Charity Navigator Score: 95.47 / 100
Children spend a lot of time at school. Action for Healthy Kids is working hard to make the best of it. From building better breakfast programs and educating youngsters on the importance of nutrition to getting them moving and motivated, the organization focuses on helping students get their game on, each and every day.
Action for Healthy Kids is having a tangible impact with plenty of heartwarming success stories to prove it.
How to gift: A $25 donation can supply a classroom with physical activity and brain break tools; $50 can help a school hold a healthy food taste test; and $100 can feed a classroom of 25 a nutritious breakfast for a month! The perfect gift to pair with your donation: anything action-oriented, from a nostalgic jump rope or hula hoop to a DVD of the comedy classic “Dodgeball.”
Charity Navigator Score: 92.92 / 100
Founded in 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is the nation’s largest donor- and volunteer-supported mentoring network. The organization matches adult volunteers with kids and adolescents across the country in order to foster positive, life-changing relationships that help kids build confidence and pursue an education. Mentors work with kids in their communities, at schools, on military bases, and more.
How to gift: In addition to gifting a donation to the mentor you couldn’t live without, give them this F. Scott Fitzgerald inspirational quote print or “The Self-Care Planner” by Meera Lester, which is all about personal well-being and goals.
Charity Navigator Score: 85.57 / 100
Founded in 1919 and perhaps one of the best-known charitable organizations for children in the world, Save the Children supports kids in the United States and around the globe through emergency response efforts, educational programs, health resources, and advocacy. It’s a can’t-go-wrong option for anyone with a heart.
How to gift: In addition to making a standard donation, you can also sponsor a child for $39 a month, or put your money toward anything from a sheep to an emergency shelter kit for a child in need. Pair your do-good donation with a motivational pencil gift set.
Charity Navigator score: 93.26 / 100
An organization that proud military supporters and dog lovers alike can get behind, Patriot PAWS trains and provides service dogs to disabled American veterans and others with disabilities and PTSD — for free.
So far, they’ve provided more than 195 service dogs to people in need in more than 30 states across the United States. They partner with prisons, individual community members, and college campuses to continue to grow their service dog training program.
How to gift: Donate in honor of a dog lover in your life and they’ll receive a written thank you letter in the mail from the organization. Pair the donation with a leakproof dog bowl water bottle or an Aquapaw dog bathing glove.
Charity Navigator score: 90.62 / 100
Founded in 1957, this group advocates for the rights of animals, providing low cost spay and neuter programs, promoting veganism, and supporting habitat and wildlife protection efforts across the globe. Friends of Animals also operates an animal sanctuary for survivors of exotic pet trade, research, and entertainment, and sponsors similar initiatives across the globe.
How to gift: Make a general donation or direct it to a specific Friends of Animals program, like vegan advocacy or anti-hunting and anti-fur initiative. Pair it with some gift-worthy cruelty-free skin care, like the First Aid Beauty jelly face mask or the Best of e.l.f. Skin Care Set.
Charity Navigator score: 90.49 / 100
Operating for more than 100 years to protect the welfare and safety of animals, American Humane provides rapid response rescue and care for animals in need across the country. They also offer animal welfare certifications to farms and act as a watchdog for the treatment of animals used in the entertainment industry.
How to gift: Pair your donation with a pair of PupSocks, which you can customize with a photo of a pet.