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.
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
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
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
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