They say it's better to give than to receive, but there are some gifts that let you do both.
Giving to charity doesn't always mean just writing a check. Nowadays, many nonprofit organizations offer creative ways of investing your donation in sustainable change.
The following gift ideas will help feed, educate and empower those in need, and help protect the world we live in. You'd be amazed how far your money can go, and best of all, there's usually something in it for you too.
Help an Entrepreneur With a Kiva Loan
Kiva.org is a groundbreaking Web site that allows one to lend money directly to aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries. The initiative drew the attention of former President Bill Clinton, who included Kiva in his latest book, "Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World."
Lenders choose a recipient from thousands of small-business owners looking for loans, and Kiva forwards the loans through a network of microfinance companies in developing countries. The system gives struggling entrepreneurs access to financial services that have not been available to them.
The loan recipient commits to paying the microfinacer back in a specified period of time. And you, in turn, get your money back.
Kiva Gift Certificates start at $25, Kiva.org
Discover the World We Live In
As human activity continues to offset the balance between man and nature, it becomes increasingly important to educate ourselves about the world in which we live.
Conservation International works to protect life on Earth through its many parternships and field offices around the world. Its projects combat global warming, species extinction, deforestation, resource depletion and other forces that threaten our existence. A gift of a $35 membership supports CI's work and connects someone to its causes with a subscription to Frontlines, its quarterly magazine, which highlights its diverse initiatives.
CI Membership, $35 CI.org
Inspire a Child's Sense of Adventure
Know a child who wants to save the world? Let that child share in that excitement, and sign the child up for a free student membership to Adventure Ecology. The interactive site follows a team of passionate explorers, who travel to the most fragile corners of the planet. It's an inspiring mix of adventure, ecology and education constantly updated with new video, photos, stories and art from around the world.
Adventure Ecology Membership, Free AdventureEcology.com
Comfort Those Who've Sacrificed
More than 28,000 U.S. troops have been wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Wounded Warrior Project helps severely injured servicemen and servicewomen with services to meet their needs. To ease the painful time immediately after an injury, the Wounded Warrior Project sends troops backpacks full of essential care and comfort items.
Your donation of $99 will send a backpack full of clothing, toiletries, a calling card, CD player and playing cards to a severely wounded warrior. During an incredibly difficult transition from the frontlines to rehabilitation, these backpacks make the time pass more easily. The project can also send a smaller version of the WWP backpack Transitional Care Pack directly to Iraq and Afghanistan to provide immediate comfort to a badly injured service member during his or her relocation to a U.S. military trauma center.
Wounded Warrior Backpack, $99 WoundedWarriorProject.org
Power Up a Child's Education
The One Laptop One Child program seeks to connect all schoolage children with laptops of their own. After years of research and development, the nonprofit organization has designed a durable, energy-efficient and low-cost laptop called the XO.
Your gift of $399 will give one XO laptop to a child in a developing country, and also send one to a child in your life. It's an incredible opportunity to give children access to technology and education, and foster international understanding.
XO Laptop, $399 LaptopGiving.org
Give a Goat, Literally
Goats can make a lasting, meaningful difference in the life and health of a family in many parts of the world. Heifer is an international organization whose mission is to end hunger. For the past 60 years, it has worked to give animals and livestock to poor people in more than 128 countries. It's a real world way to provide a sustainable solution to hunger. Even Oprah recommends Heifer on her Web site.
Your gift of $120 to Heifer International provides a family with a goat of its own. A goat will supply quarts of fresh milk to nourish and feed the family every day. Extra milk can be used to make cheese, yogurt and butter, which can be sold for a profit. Families can also use the goat's manure to help fertilize gardens. Goats are easy to take care of and thrive in extreme climates and on poor, dry land by eating grass and leaves.
Goat, $120 Heifer.org
Give Good Health Though Vaccinations
Tens of thousands of people die every day from preventable diseases. In the developed world, getting vaccinated against those diseases is standard practice and a basic part of childhood health. Millions of people in developing nations, though, cannot afford these crucial medicines.
Doctors Without Borders is an independent international medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural or manmade disasters, or exclusion from health care in more than 70 countries. Your gift of $50 will provide vaccinations for 50 people against meningitis, measles, polio or other deadly diseases.
Vaccinations for 50 people, $50 DoctorsWithoutBorders.org
Multiply Your Impact in America
One in eight Americans live in poverty, according to the Center for American Progress. In New York City alone, one in three children live below the poverty line, making it the most impoverished city per capita in the United States.
Thanks to corporate commitments that match donations, your gift to World Vision for New York children gets multiplied 13 times. Just $25 will give $325 worth of practical help to children who face crime, drugs, social injustice and poor education through such resources through new clothing, diapers, blankets, household and personal care items, even Christmas toys.
World Vision is a Christian charity that works in the United States and around the world to tackle the causes of poverty. Its programs care for children, respond to emergencies and transform communities.
$325 of Supplies, $25 WorldVision.org
Give Whatever You Want
Even if none of these gift ideas are what you looking for this holiday season, you can still give a little back while shopping for all the rest. Good Search is a search engine that donates 50 percent of its revenue to charities and schools designated by its users. Good Search
If you're considering giving, but would like to know more about where your money is going, check out Charity Navigator to help evaluate the nonprofit organization.