Tis the season for giving. I would venture to say that most households spend more money in the month of December for discretionary expenses than the rest of the year. This is largely from traveling for the holidays to visit family and buying Christmas gifts. The end of year is also a good time to consider giving to others as well. To help you get in the spirit of giving, there will be a list of several great Christmas charity options to choose from.
This isn't the first charity-related article I have written about on Money Buffalo. While I think it's great that there is an International Giving Day plus the Salvation Army & United Way halftime shows during the Thanksgiving NFL matchups, I think it is important to be charitable all 12 months of the year. Kalie from her blog Pretend to be Poor does a great job laying out The Case for Consistent Generosity.
How do you get involved for Christmas? The below list will help you decide on several excellent domestic and international organizations. One word of advice, while you might wait until mid-December to start your Christmas shopping, some of these organizations require donations to be made in mid-November so the organizations have sufficient time to make deliveries to the families for Christmas.
If you already have a home for your charitable donations, please be happy to continue contributing there. But, if you are looking to add an additional organization (or want to start giving), the following 7 suggestions are a great starting place.
Domestic Christmas Charities
We are blessed to live in North America and enjoy a standard of living others cannot imagine. But, there is still poverty within our country too. Here are some ways to help.
Toys for Tots
Toys for Tots is the most prolific domestic organization and they distribute toys to children with financial needs across the nation and also to the various Native American reservations located within the United States. It is operated by the Marine Corp Reserve.
There are two contribution options. You can buy and donate toys at a local drop-off location. It might be a retail store or the local library. Using the drop-off locator can help you find the closest spot. Drop-off locations begin accepting drop-offs in early October and finish in mid-December.
You can also donate cash online, if that is easier, anytime of the year.
Local Food Bank
Thanksgiving is the big fundraising push for most local and national food banks. But, they need food and volunteers all the time. Christmas can be a great time to donate food or for volunteering to give a regular staff member a break during the “season of giving.” You can check with your local church or community leadership to find the local food pantry or check here.
We personally like to use the Christmas time to help children and families around the world celebrate the holidays. Here are three suggestions.
Operation Christmas Child
Operation Christmas Child is probably the largest international Christmas gift collection program. It is operated by Samaritan's Purse who provides aid and relief to disaster and conflict victims domestically and abroad.
You can make cash donations or pack a shoebox/similar sized plastic container (our favorite option) full of useful items. We normally buy age-appropriate small toys, basic medical supplies like band-aids and toothbrushes, and stationery. If you decide to donate a shoe box, you will need to take it to a local drop off location during the second week of November (the 14th-21st for 2016).
Each box costs $7 to ship (can pay at the drop off center or prepay online) plus the cost of the box and its contents. It's a great way to get your children involved with charity as you can designate the age and gender of the recipient. The age ranges are 2-4 years old, 5-9 years old, and 10-14 years old.
If you cannot meet the dropoff deadline or do not have the time to make a box, you can also build an online shoebox that Operation Christmas Child will make for you. You get to put the items in the online cart & they will package it and ship it off for a suggested donation of $25.
Sponsor a Child
If you want to put a face to your donation, you can sponsor a child through World Vision ($39 per month) or Compassion International ($38 per month). Both are good organizations with high charitable rankings. My wife & I currently sponsor two children through Compassion, as we heard about them first when looking for a credible child sponsorship charity.
Both organizations offer a holiday gift catalog for bonus gifts. If you are not ready to make a monthly commitment, they are also very appreciative of one-time gifts as well at Christmas or during the other 11 months as well.
Heifer International helps people “learn to fish” instead of only “receiving a fish” helping charity recipients receive resources and training for sustainable agriculture to feed their family and also earn an income. A $20 donation can buy a flock of chicks or help buy a share of a sheep or cow. Larger donations, like $500, can buy a whole cow!
In addition to providing agricultural training, Heifer International also helps provide training and resources to women to help them provide for their families as well.
Help your favorite charity with every Amazon purchase
By enrolling with Amazon Smile, Amazon will dedicate a small portion of each sale to the charity of your choice. Whenever I make a purchase on Amazon, I make sure to use Amazon Smile instead of the regular Amazon site. For your purchases to qualify, you need to start your shopping trip on Smile.Amazon.com instead of the normal Amazon.com.
Donate a meal with every online shopping purchase
Another way to help others by shopping is through the Giving Assistant shopping portal. When you open a shopping session through Giving Assistant, you earn cash back and they donate a meal. It's a win-win!
Do you have a favorite charity that you like to give to during the Christmas holidays? Have you ever been a recipient of a charity?
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.