Charitable Gift Giving

We surf the Web to find good products that help out a great cause.

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Toys R Us Guide for Disabled (or Differently-Abled) Kids

July 26th, 2014 · Uncategorized

Over the years the world has come up with all kinds of words for children with special needs. They were “handicapped”, then “disabled”, then “physically challenged”, and now “special needs”.

But there’s one thing a lot of people don’t call these children that they should: kids. Despite whatever physical ailments they have, they are at the end of the day kids. They laugh, they play with toys, they want to run and jump and be silly, and they cry, sadly more than other kids.

I really love what Toys R Us has been doing for the last 20 years. They’ve released a guide called the Toys “R” Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids that should be required reading for any parent, family member, health care giver or friend of a family with a child with special needs. What’s great about this toy catalog is that it’s not just a list of toys placed in categories that is intended to sell more products, but it goes into the individual needs of each individual child, pointing out toys that reinforce skills such as Auditory, Language, Social Skills, Creativity, Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Self Esteem, Tactile, Thinking, and Visual Skills. They collaborated with the National Lekotek Center, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides an array of services to improve the lives of children with special needs.

You can view a copy of the guide here.

Here’s a message from the great Albert Pujols, himself a parent of a child with Downs Syndrome and one of the all-around good guys in baseball and in life, to talk more about it.

Toys R Us is a great supporter of multiple charities that benefit children with needs, including their own Toys R Us Children’s Fund, the American Society for Deaf Children, Autism Speaks, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Down Syndrome Society, Spina Bifida Association, Hollyrod Foundation, MDA, National Federation for the Blind, the Special Olympics, and United Cerebral Palsy.

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Gardener’s Supply Copmany’s Charitable Donations

July 18th, 2014 · Uncategorized

I’ve been a customer of Gardener’s Supply Company a lot lately, actually a lot more than I wish given that the main product I’m buying are to combat a nasty fungus gnat infestation.

One thing I didn’t realize about the company is that 8% of their profits are donated to charity.

gardeners supply charity

This isn’t a one-time gimmick nor a donation with a maximum cap as other companies tend to do, but something the company has been doing since 1983! So the next time you need potting soil or garden supplies or (gasp) yellow sticky traps for gnats, think of them first!

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Kohl’s Cares 2014 featuring Little Critter, Disney, and Books.

July 11th, 2014 · Uncategorized

It’s that time of year again–Kohls is featuring a new set of great products in their Kohl’s Cares collection that donate to kids’ health and education,. All are available for only $5.

As always, their product selection this year is fantastic. I especially love the stuffed animals they have, from Dumbo to Baloo (from The Jungle Book–the Bear Necessities guy) to an adorable stuffed bear.

bear stuffed animalbaloo stuffed animaldumbo stuffed animal


And yes, you read that right–all of these are only $5.

There’s also a series of Little Critter books and plush toys, as well as books for grown-ups (a book on how to get out stains and a Mom 101 cookbook).

100% (yes, you read that right) of the net profits from these products will be donated to kids health and education initiatives nationwide. Since 2000 they’ve raised over $231 million.


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The Give Back Box – A Convenient Way to Donate by Mail

April 21st, 2014 · Goodwill Industries

logowhiterimWell, April 15 has come and gone.

One thing that Uncle Sam lets us do is to write-off donations to charity. Now I’ll start this post off by the usual disclaimers that I’m not a tax expert and you need to consult your tax advisor on any of this stuff.

That said, one thing I’ve become acutely aware of after getting married is that I have a lot of junk. Well, prior to getting married I thought this was treasure, but my wife has helped open my eyes to certain things. Like how our clothes closets aren’t being used to store clothes but boxes of things. Or how our second bedroom isn’t being used as a bedroom, but as a storage unit.

My first reaction was to go on eBay and sell as much as I could. But boy did that become a hassle. You have to take the time to write a listing, take pictures, get payment, box it carefully, buy postage, and drop it off at a post office. At the end of the day, the few dollars I earned from it almost seemed not worth it.

Donation of goods is never something that really crossed my mind before, but when you think about it, it’s a fantastic idea, whether or not the tax write-off. You have stuff you don’t need that’s taking up space–furniture, lamps, appliances, clothes, shoes. They’re not in terrible shape, but for whatever reason you just outgrew them. But donate them to charity, and the charity will re-sell it to someone else. That person gets your used items are a huge discount over what it’d cost to buy it new, the charity will get a little bit of profit, and that profit will go towards helping someone who’s in desperate need. All while keeping your local landfill from being cluttered with your stuff.

One brilliant idea I recently heard of is the GiveBackBox.Com. The concept is simple. How many times do you receive boxes of more “stuff” from UPS or FedEx or the post office? Oftentimes, you’ll unpack the box and then throw it away.

With, you can print a pre-paid shipping label. All you have to do is empty the box you received from your e-commerce purchase, tear off all the labels, stuff the box with household items you want to donate (as can fit in the box), slap the label on the box, and call UPS for a pickup. Your donation will be send directly to Goodwill, where they’ll sort your items and sell it in their stores, with money going to help strengthen communities and help youth, seniors, veterans, the disabled, and others through education, skills training, and finding jobs.

Just a few suggestions that aren’t on their Web site. Avoid the temptation to donate things that are too old and raggedy–no one wants you old stained pair of sweatsocks or your underwear with the holes (and while I’m no tax expert, something tells me the IRS wouldn’t be too keen on your assigning value to those things). Instead, donate things that have value; the sweater you only wore a few times, the appliance that still works but that you don’t use anymore, and so on. Things that you believe that someone shopping in a Goodwill store would snap up as a bargain. Also, be honest with yourself and with the IRS about the valuation.

As you put things in your box, be sure to keep track of them, of course. You can get a donation receipt from the attached link.

I love this idea because it avoids so many of the hassles that usually prevent us from donating. Driving to a donation bin and finding that people are basically using them as dumpsters. Driving for miles to the nearest office of a charity who may or may not be open. Scheduling an appointment for a charity to come pick up your items. Already, companies like NewEgg and Amazon are jumping on the bandwagon.

This won’t (and shouldn’t) replace you from donating to other charities (The Lupus Foundation is one with special significance to me, whose bags I will continue to fill), but it’s a great way to remind you that whenever you get cool new “stuff”, it’s time for you to evaluate which of your “cool old stuff” you can donate.


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Cross your heart and help others live

February 2nd, 2014 · Uncategorized

razoo charity gift cardFebruary, appropriately enough, is National Heart Month, among other things. While we cover a lot of different causes on this site, heart disease is still the #1 killer in the United States, and as such it’s critically important to raise awareness.

I got an email from Razoo Giving Cards, a cool idea where you give a gift card to someone with funds (from $10-$500) that your recipient can donate to any cause he or she chooses. The balance on the card is good for a year, and the only fee is a 4.9% processing cost that pays for the expenses of the Razoo Foundation (which is itself a 501(c)(3) charity).

It’s a cool idea for a couple reasons. First, you get the tax deduction. Second, your recipient gets to choose a cause nearest and dearest to her or him.

Here are some of the heart-related charities that Razoo recommends this month:

  • Hearts for Cart – A fundraiser for Camp Odayin, a camp for kids with heart disease.
  • Global Heart Network Foundation – A contributive platform aimed at increasing access to cardiac care in low-middle income countries.
  • Wendy’s Run for Project Valentine – Project Valentine’s mission is to make life a “little sweeter” for individuals undergoing cancer treatment in the Denver metro area with loving care packages delivered on or around Valentine’s Day.

But the cool thing is that your recipient can choose from over 1 million other charities.

Just a tip for the guys out there–while Razoo’s email to me suggested that I say “instead of flowers or chocolate”, trust me, you’re going to want to give this IN ADDITION to flowersAND chocolate. :)

Giving Cards are redeemable online for one year from purchase date.

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The Best Gifts for Book Lovers are still at GoneReading

December 6th, 2013 · Uncategorized

Back in 2011 I first wrote about a great organization called GoneReading that was just starting up at the time.  The concept of GoneReading was (and is) a brilliant one: have an online store that sells high quality gifts specifically geared towards readers, and then take 100% of the after-tax profits to fund charities that are devoted to promoting reading and literacy.

It’s a model that has worked brilliantly; GoneReading’s founder Brad Wirz recently emailed me and shared the happy news that GoneReading recently funded its first new library in Ethiopia.

While there are a lot of charities that provide relief and aid to third world countries, there’s something particularly hopeful about the kind of help that GoneReading provides. It’s one thing to pay for a meal or a handout, but it’s a whole other thing to open up a world of knowledge that people in these countries can use to become educated and break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness.

As an online store, GoneReading has come a long way since I first posted about them two years ago. While they used to be mainly a shop that sold things like mugs and T-Shirts, today they’ve expanded to have a huge breadth of fantastic gifts for book lovers.

Some of my favorite gifts are actually some of the most affordable–they have a huge selection of high quality metal bookmarks with cute charms on the end (my sister is both a dog lover and a book lover, so this one will be perfect for her).

dog bookmark


In addition, since I last wrote about them, they’ve added an amazing number of new items. One of my favorite are literary action figures of Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde. Legend has it that Oscar Wilde once insulted Charles Dickens by saying about The Old Curiousity Shop, “One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears…of laughter”. If you buy these action figures, you can reenact what the inevitable deathmatch would have looked like.

There’s a huge number of other great gifts that are perfect for book lovers, from book ends to book holders to book lights to book journals to book plates. There’s even a bamboo bathtub caddy that lets you prop up a book in the bath

If you know any avid readers who like to show off their book knowledge (you know the type, the ones who will quote passages of Shakespeare or Jane Austen), they have a selection of games about books.

Speaking of Jane Austen, one of the coolest gifts (and affordable too) are “magnetic poetry kits”. These are clever sets of 200 magnets of words that you can arrange on the refrigerator. These have been around for a while, but GoneReading has the Edgar Allan Poe edition, the Jane Austin edition, and the Shakespeare edition.

jane austin kit


I tried out the Jane Austen set and in no time I was writing like ol’ Jane herself.



GoneReading is a great example of three great American traditions: the entrepreneurial spirit, its generosity, and its love of books. If you love to read or know someone that does, there’s no better place on the Web to do your Christmas shopping.

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World Vision Gift Catalog and Thoughts on Giving

December 3rd, 2013 · World Vision

Young men in our society often get a bad rap, and sadly, there’s a reason for this. The young punks who go around committing crimes, assaulting people, bullying people, acting out in self-centered and selfish ways, and being general nuisances and burdens to society are the ones we and the news media notice.

But a recent survey from World Vision gave me hope–a lot of hope. Their survey revealed that 56% of men aged 18-34 have given a charitable gift. That’s a whopping 20% higher giving than older men aged 35 and up, and a surprising 19% higher than women of their same age range. This was the complete opposite of what most people assumed: that older people are more likely to give to charity or that today’s young people are less generous that previous generations.

Cheryl DeBruler, a Gift Catalog Specialist at World Vision, commented. “Based on what we’ve seen at World Vision, young men might be more aptly coined the ‘misunderstood generation. Young adults are a huge force in what we do – whether it’s advocacy, volunteering or fundraising. Historically they’ve even led some of our campaigns against global issues like AIDS and hunger. They’re a case study of compassion in action.”

There were some other interesting findings in the study, which was conducted by Harris Interactive. One of the most interesting: 3 in 5 adults (61 percent) think giving to charity is a good teaching tool for children, yet only about 2 in 5 parents* who donate money to charity do so in order to teach their children about generosity (43 percent). And 42 percent of people who give to charity says it makes them feel like a good person (I would have expected that number to be higher, but perhaps people were just being modest, which is one of the signs of a true giver, of course).

One great way to give this Christmas is with the World Vision Gift Catalog. Each year, the gifts they highlight get more and more impressive. I think a few years ago, I highlighted “Gertie the Goat”, which was one of the only gives you could get from World Vision. Today, they have things in their catalog that will please just about everyone on your list.

I had a chance to check out these amazing Christmas ornament set of three African animals. Appropriately enough, these particular ornaments are handcrafted in Kenya using recycled glass beads and wire.

Here’s a water buffalo:

water buffalo christmas ornament

And then an elephant:

elephant christmas ornament

And finally a giraffe:

giraffe christmas ornament

Click on the image to see a close-up of how beautiful and intricate the craftsmanship is and how they sparkle under the light. With all the mass-produced junk that big corporations order to be churned out of China, there’s something very unique and special about each of these ornaments.


Something else that’s special is that the proceeds from these ornaments don’t go to the GDP of mainland China, nor do they line the pockets of giant corporations. As the tag on each ornament says, purchasing this product directly supports over 60 rehabilitated young people at a Youth Employment project based in Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya.

Furthermore, purchases from the gift catalog help to fund World Vision’s mission to help children and their communities around the world reach their full potential by tackling poverty and its causes.

Browsing through the catalog, there are other amazing things, such as tote bags, bracelets and necklaces, scarves, and many more. Or, you can give a symbolic gift; the person in whose name the gift was given can receive a personalized card describing the gift and its impact. The most popular such gifts are “Goat a 2 Chickens”, “Hope for Sexually Exploited Girls”, “$350 Worth of Medicines”, “5 Ducks” and “Clothing for Children”.

World Vision was one of the leading charities on the scene in the Philippines a few weeks ago, and their work there continues. Every year I’m more and more impressed by their creativity in providing great gifts to give, as well as their leadership in helping the areas around the world that need it most. Whether you’re a young man, a young woman, or just young at heart, it’s a great opportunity to take some of the blessings you’ve been giving and pass them around on this #GivingTuesday.

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Free Tagalog Lessons from Pimsleur for Philippine Typhoon Volunteers

November 28th, 2013 · Uncategorized

tagalog-free-lessonsHere’s a really neat idea from the folks at Pimsleur Language Programs.

As just about everyone knows by now, the Philippines was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan two weeks ago. As I mentioned in my last post, what tends to happen is that the news media will focus a lot of attention on the suffering for a short period of time, but after they’ve gotten what they need out of the disaster they’ll go to something else. In the meantime, those who are suffering are suffering no less because they’re not on TV anymore.

But even as the public starts to forget, there are some amazing charities and aid agencies that have hundreds of volunteers who are going to the Philippines to help.

From now until the end of the year, Pimsleur is offering 15 introductory lessons, or about 7.5 hours of lessons of Tagalog  (pronounced tuh-GUH-logh) for free. Tagalog is the most widely-spoken language out of 170 languages spoken in the Philippines.

Given that 30 lessons normally cost $120, this is at least a $60 value. Pimsleur did a similar thing with Japanese and Haitian Creole in 2010 and 2011 when disasters struck those countries.

If you know a volunteer organization, or individual volunteer who’s going to help out in the Philippines, this would be a great resource for them, even on the plane ride out. While they won’t be fluent in the language, it’ll help them learn the basics.

For more details and to download the 7.5 hours of lessons for free, visit here:


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Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines – How You Can Help

November 17th, 2013 · Developing Areas

Typhoon Haiyan, which touched down Friday, November 8, is now being called the strongest storm ever to make landfall in history. It battered the Philippines with sustained winds of almost 200 miles an hour. Over 10,000 people are believed to have perished, and over 1.2 million Filipino residents are at risk.

In the years I’ve been running this blog, I’ve seen a sad but rather predictable pattern to natural disasters like the one we’ve seen most recently in the Philippines with Typhoon Haiyan. The news media will show photos of the devastation and have heart-wrenching stories of those whose lives have been destroyed or forever changed. That’ll trigger an outpouring of support. Sadly, often there will be unscrupulous people who set up fake charity hotlines and Web sites in an effort to make a profit off the suffering of others. And then, after a few weeks pass, once the next news story hits most people will forget about the devastated areas, even though those in those areas may still be years away from recovery and will be in even greater need of help.

The one point I’ve stressed before–and will stress again–is to do your home work when giving. Avoid giving donations by text or at a Web site you don’t recognize. Send cash to a recognized charity rather than things like used clothes or canned food, which in many cases only get in the way. And please remember that even after the nightly news stops showing the pictures, the suffering is still there, and so is the need for your prayer and support.

The one Web site I always turn to first in situations like this when I’m looking to donate is Charity Navigator. They do an amazing job of evaluating charities and giving them a star rating from 1 to 4. 4-star charities are the best of the best. When you give to one of these charities, you can pretty much rest assured that your donation has the best chance of going directly to helping someone in need, versus getting tied up in political or bureaucratic nonsense.

Specifically, these are the charities that Charity Navigator has identified as 4-star charities, and who have committed to promising that if you designate your donation to go to help Typhoon Haiyan victims, that it will be spent there and nowhere else.

Action Against Hunger
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Architecture for Humanity
Concern Worldwide US
Direct Relief
Feed My Starving Children
Forward Edge International
International Relief Teams
International Rescue Committee
Lutheran World Relief
MAP International
Matthew 25: Ministries
Medical Ministry International
Medical Teams International
MedShare International
Mercy Corps
Oxfam America
United States Fund for UNICEF
Water Missions International
World Food Program USA
World Vision

Each of these, of course, are 501 (c)(3) designated charities, so your donation will be cash-deductible.


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World of Children Award Key-Shaped Jewelry

November 4th, 2013 · Children's Charities

The World of Children Award is sometimes referred to as the “Nobel Prize for child advocates”. It recognizes and provides funding for some of those who make a big difference for children worldwide. This year’s Advocacy Award Recipient is someone we’re talked about in the past on this blog: Lauren Bush Lauren, the originator and founder of the FEED Bag that has helped so many children around the world. Past honorees have included amazing people around the world who have improved childrens’ medicine around the world; helped comfort and support children faced with illnesses, poverty, or violence; and otherwise helped the neediest and most innocent people in the world.

Their annual award event is this coming Thursday in New York City. In commemoration, they’re selling two beautiful pieces of jewelry.

The first is a sterling silver horseshoe key chain:

horseshoe keychain


This will sell for $250. It’s made of sterling silver and features the signature World of Children Award logo. It’s available for purchase here.

The second is a Sterling Silver Necklance, also inspired by the World of Children Award logo and created by jewelry designers Adam Shulman and Heidi Nahser Fink of James Banks Design.


key shaped necklace

It sells for $1000 and is available for purchase here.

100% of all contributions of both items will help World of Children Award to fund projects that exclusively support vulnerable children all around the world. For instance – purchasing silver horseshoe key ring could provide a full month of rice for 25 children in Cambodia, or self-defense training for more than 1,000 vulnerable young girls worldwide,  or go to help someone like honoree Triveni Acharya, who rescues victims of child trafficking, or honoree Mead Welles, who gives essential prosthetic devices to children in third-world countries with limb deformities.  In its 16-year history, World of Children Award has invested more than $5 million in programs led by 100 Honorees serving vulnerable children in 150 countries.



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