‘Tis the season for cooking, baking, laughing, singing, and of course, shopping. After all, what is the holiday season for if not the joy of giving?
Whether you’re picking up a present for your mom, your kids, or your significant other, you probably dedicate much of November and December to finding, purchasing, and giving the perfect present. In fact, the most recent survey by Statista revealed that consumers in the U.S. plan to spend about $846 on Christmas gifts in 2019. That’s more than a little loose change.
While you’re feeling generous, you might also want to set aside some funds for charitable giving. But after purchasing food, entertaining, decorating for the holidays, and everything else that goes along with the season, many people’s coffers are running on empty, leaving little left for favorite charitable causes. That leaves you with a decision: Do you spend less on family and friends to give more generously, or do you skip charitable giving this year altogether?
Fortunately, you don’t have to make that choice. It’s possible to shop for a cause by simply choosing to shop at retailers, on websites, and for products that donate a portion of their profits to nonprofit and charitable organizations.
Ways to Shop for a Cause This Holiday Season
“Shopping for a cause” means choosing to put your retail dollars to work for charitable organizations. Whether a store donates the proceeds or you select a retailer that offers charity-specific products, you can shop for your loved ones while making sure your money makes a difference.
You have a significant number of different and thoroughly creative choices, so pick the option — or, better yet, options — that work best for you.
1. Online Stores & Portals That Give Back
Certain websites automatically find retailers that donate a percentage of proceeds to a charity of your choice. Generally, to use these websites, you must create an account and then use the site as a portal to your favorite online retailers. When you make a purchase, most use a special URL to record the site as the referrer, and part of your purchase price goes to a charity of your choice.
Some online malls or single-store websites also offer a selection of products to choose from, so you can purchase and donate through one website rather than going to a retailer’s site.
You can find many options just by spending a few minutes surfing the Internet. They include:
- Giftback.com. Select gifts from this dedicated online charity shopping mall, and 10% of the purchase price goes to the charity of your choice.
- iGive.com. This site is similar to a money-saving browser extension but for charitable donations. Install the iGive button as an app on your browser and then shop as usual — no need to sign in or buy through a special site. The iGive button records your purchases and donates a portion of the price to your favorite charity. The app has over 2,300 participating stores, but the amount donated varies from retailer to retailer.
- AmazonSmile. Activate AmazonSmile by shopping from smile.amazon.com, and a portion of your purchases go to a charity of your choice. Users of AmazonSmile have donated more than $140 million to over 1 million charities. If you’re already a frequent Amazon shopper or Amazon Prime member, it’s an easy way to give back.
- Goodshop. Shop at thousands of retailers you already know and love, and Goodshop donates a portion of your purchases to your favorite charity or school.
- eBay for Charity. Millions of people use eBay. Now you can shop, sell, and give back to your favorite charities at checkout. Sellers pick a charity and a percentage of every sale they want to give to that charity. When an item sells, PayPal Giving Fund collects the donation from the seller’s account.
- Sevenly. This site sells ethically sourced clothing, and when you purchase an item, they give back a portion of your purchase to charities supporting causes like autism awareness, nature and outdoors, and disaster relief.
- Happy Blankie. Buy a premium blanket for a young child in your life, and Happy Blankie donates a second Blankie to the Ronald McDonald House or one of Happy Blankie’s designated hospitals or orphanages.
- GreaterGood. This family of websites sells products like jewelry, footwear, and clothing. Sales of their goods support all kinds of causes, such as rebuilding animal shelters, caring for children orphaned by Ebola, and giving textbooks to girls in Nepal.
If you’ve never shopped at an online store that gives back, this is the year to begin a new tradition. But don’t let the holidays be the only time you log on. Get into a yearlong habit of shopping at one of these websites — it makes a big difference to your favorite charity’s bottom line.
For example, AmazonSmile offers the same shopping features, products, and pricing as Amazon. But Amazon Smile Foundation donates 5% of the purchase price of all eligible products to charitable organizations. That means if you buy an item for $100, AmazonSmile will donate $5 to an eligible charity of your choice.
2. Brick-&-Mortar Stores That Give Back
A favorite mall staple of many people, Macy’s holds a Macy’s Gives Back event every year. As of Dec. 5, 2019, they’ve donated over $42 million to various causes, and volunteers have donated over 75,000 hours of their time. This year, when you’re shopping at Macy’s, stop and write a letter to Santa, and the store will donate $1 to the Make-A-Wish foundation. Your dollars also support organizations like the March of Dimes, United Way, and Becca’s Closet, which collects prom dresses for high school girls with financial need and awards postsecondary scholarships to young people nationwide.
Macy’s isn’t the only retailer offering opportunities to charitable shoppers. There are also designated shopping days on which a portion of your purchase goes to charity. For example, Miracle on Madison Avenue is a day, typically in early December, when a percentage of sales from dozens of retailers along Madison Avenue in New York City goes to fighting childhood cancer.
There are also many local and small retailers offering designated shopping days and charitable shopping opportunities. For example, the online charitable giving store Greater Good recently opened a brick-and-mortar location in the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Customers can visit the store and actively support a charity with each transaction.
Following suit, The Cause Collection, known for responsibly manufactured fashion and donating $10 from each sale to one of three charities they currently partner with, has also opened a retail store in Los Angeles, California.
Look for a store or day in your area by searching online for “charitable shopping” and your zip code.
3. Nonprofits & Charities
Yes, you can donate to charities outright during the holidays. But many of them also have online gift shops where you can find presents for everyone on your list. There are many organizations to choose from, such as:
- UNICEF Market
- Stand Up to Cancer Store
- Serrv Store
- PETA’s online store
- PBS Kids’ online store
- One Store
- The National Wildlife Federation’s online store
- Habitat for Humanity ReStore
And that doesn’t mean giving everyone on your list charity-logo products. For example, if you’re shopping for a fashionista, pick up a casual corded bracelet from the Stand Up to Cancer shop or cruelty-free beauty products from PETA’s online store. Or stop by the National Wildlife Foundation store for a snowflake-print fleece cardigan or embellished leaf-print pullover.
4. Couponing for Good
Couponing is a hot topic. Some swear by it, while others dismiss it entirely. But if you’re a hardcore couponer, you know what a life-changer coupons are.
This year, why not put your coupons to good use during the holiday season by donating those items you get for cheap or free to worthy causes?
When you find a coupon for a free or cheap item, use your couponing skills as a way to give back on a budget. There are many options to donate your low-cost purchases and make a big difference in someone else’s life:
- Deliver nonperishable goods to your local food bank.
- Package and send toiletries, which are common for-free items couponers find, to troops overseas. Many organizations pack, organize, and ship military care packages. But there are some things you can’t ship and some you shouldn’t send, as well as deadlines for shipping and packing tips. So if you plan to pack your own, look those up before you buy anything.
- Shop buy-one, get-one-free toy sales when shopping for your kids, and donate the extra toy to a family shelter.
5. Buy-1, Donate-1 Organizations
Buy-one, donate-one organizations promise to give something back — a product, monetary donation, or even food — each time you make a purchase. There are so many you can practically do all your holiday shopping just by buying from these charitable retailers.
- For Your Fashion-Forward Teen: Toms has always had a one-for-one motto: Each time you purchase a pair of shoes, Toms donates a pair to a child in need. Toms also uses the same model on its sunglasses line.
- For Your Favorite Bookworm: BetterWorldBooks carries both new and used books. It donates one book for every one you buy to libraries and readers around the world. Plus, Better World Books never throws away a book. Instead, they recycle them to keep them out of landfills.
- For Your Neighbors: Good Spread is a mixture of peanut butter and honey that tastes great and makes your heart warm by making a difference worldwide. They match your purchase price with ready-to-use therapeutic food packets they send to underdeveloped countries to combat malnutrition.
- For Your Kid’s School: When you shop for school supplies at Yoobi, they pack up and send packs of supplies to schools in high-need areas all across the U.S.
To find out if the gift on your loved one’s list is available from a buy-one, give-one company, search for the words “buy one give one” followed by the name of the gift. For example, if you’re looking for socks for stocking stuffers, searching “buy one give one socks” brings up the company Bombas. Bombas donates one pair of socks or other clothing item to a homeless shelter or group serving those in need for every one purchased.
6. Socially Conscious Retailers
Thanks to a push toward goods made with sustainable resources by workers paid fair wages, there are more and more socially conscious products available at various retailers. If you’re not into big-box stores and don’t feel great about purchasing mass-market goods, you can find stores selling wonderful goods made by local artisans or even small-business owners in other countries.
Buying from socially conscious retailers often lets you see a direct impact on the artisans, builders, and designers who offer their wares. It’s as simple as purchasing a handmade paper journal from an Etsy seller or visiting a local craft show to see the offerings from local businesses.
You can also shop at stores that specialize in fair-market, socially conscious goods. Lots of retailers offer fair-market goods that make fantastic gifts, including:
- Clothing: Pact, Good & Fair Clothing Co., Skyline, Patagonia, tentree, Mitscoots Outfitters, Figs, Twice As Warm, Out of Print, Society B, Skateistan
- Accessories: WeWood, Panda, Warby Parker, Love Your Melon, Headbands of Hope, State, Noonday Collection, Pura Vida
- Home Goods: Boll & Branch, West Elm, The Little Market
- Bath and Beauty: Savvy Boheme, Surya Brasil
- Food: Feed, Project 7
Before you buy from any retailer, always check out the “about us” section and look for phrases like “ethically sourced,” “socially conscious,” and “fair market.” These phrases mean they purchase their products, materials, or ingredients from manufacturers who adhere to strict working-condition regulations or from smaller businesses or artisans at a fair price.
Do a little research to find out where the goods you buy are coming from, and you can feel better about buying in a more socially conscious way.
7. Charity-Specific Products
Charity-specific products are those developed by a designer or retailer with a significant portion — often 100% — of the proceeds going to charity. They’re usually special-edition or specially manufactured products. and sometimes, you have to do some digging to find them.
Search online using a retailer’s or product’s name followed by the phrase “100% donated.” Or check the news page for your favorite charity since the charities themselves often announce such partnerships.
An example of ubiquitous charity-specific products is the Red collection. Red partner retailers like Apple, Johnson & Johnson, Starbucks, and Amazon have exclusive red-colored versions of their products, including things like clothing, notebooks, reading lamps, coffee, and technology. When you purchase Red goods, a full 100% of the proceeds go to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
Red isn’t the only company promising 100% proceeds donations on specific goods. Lush makes a touchably soft body lotion called Charity Pot. With every purchase of Charity Pot, Lush donates 100% of the price to small organizations working for animal protection, human rights, and environmental justice.
Food company Newman’s Own also gives 100% of the profits from all its products — including sauces, candies, cookies, coffee, and the famous salad dressing that started it all — to various educational and charitable organizations.
8. Round Up at the Register for Charity
This one might be the simplest strategy of all. This year, put the change you get back from your cash purchases in the charity collection box at the register. A few nickels and dimes don’t seem like much, but if everyone donates their spare change, it makes a significant impact. And it barely dents your budget.
If you’re not sure which charities you’d like to donate to, check out Double the Donation for a list of popular companies that donate to charity. By vetting the charities for the stores where you shop most often, you can feel good about giving a dollar or two each time you’re at the register.
In all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget those less fortunate — especially when your holiday budget already feels tight. But while it often feels like our pennies and dollars don’t make an impact, it really adds up when everyone gives a little.
So if you have the means, challenge yourself to donate to a worthy cause whenever possible this holiday season — whether it’s stuffing a few coins into a Salvation Army cup or donating $1 at the register.
How do you give back during the holiday season?