'Tis the Season for Giving

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

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