Charitable Gift Giving

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

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Oprah’s Chai Tea from Teavana and Starbucks that Helps Charity

September 2nd, 2014 · Uncategorized

Remember when rocker Bret Michaels created Snapple Troparocka as part of the Celebrity Apprentice reality show?  It was hard to believe that someone who wasn’t a beverage professional could create something so delicious. In fact, I have a bottle sitting next to me right now.




Well, back in April of this year Oprah announced at a Starbucks shareholders’ meeting that she had collaborated with Starbucks and Teavana to create her own chai blend.

Chai tea, for those who don’t know, is actually a but of a redundancy (technically speaking a tautology). The word “chai”is the word for “tea” in many languages in Europe and Asia, derived from the Persian word “chay” which itself was derived from the Chinese word 茶. So when you say “Chai Tea”, you’re actually saying “Tea Tea”.

But “Chai Tea” has become synonymous in the US with a concoction of tea prepared with milk and spices. Just as regular coffee evolved into latte, a mixture of milk and extremely strongly brewed coffee (expresso), chai latte is a mixture of milk, tea, and spices.

Oprah’s Chai combines cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves, blended with loose-leaf black tea and rooibos. But let’s face it, this blend is wildly successful because of one ingredent: Oprah’s name. Just as 90% of coffee connoisseurs out there can’t tell the difference between good expresso and mediocre expresso, the folks who thought of this probably figured the same was true for Chai.

Oprah’s Chai is a decent Chai. It’s a bit too sweet for my wife’s taste and frankly I prefer my latte in coffee form vs. tea form. But overall it’s not bad. And the best thing about it is that a portion of every purchase of leaves from Teavana or drinks from Starbucks goes to benefit educational opportunities for young people through The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation.

This includes:

oprah chai tea set25 cents for each Teavana Oprah Chai prepared beverage at Starbucks

$1 USD per reusable storage tin like this Teavana Oprah Chai Tea Tin 16oz

$1 USD per 2 oz. of Teavana Oprah Chai Loose-Leaf Tea like this Teavana Oprah Chai Tea Loose Leaf Tea

$1 per small gift set like this Oprah Chai Tea Infuse Inspiration Set

$4 USD per large gift set like this Teavana Oprah Chai Tea Infuse Inspiration Set


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Sports Memorabilia for Auction That Helps United Way

August 23rd, 2014 · Uncategorized

Are you a big sports fan or do you know one? How would you like to own or experience some of the following:

  • A round of golf with Lee Westwood, former World Number One and UPS Golf Ambassador.
  • A UPS Racing fire suit worn by NASCAR driver Carl Edwards in the 2013 Kentucky Speedway: Quaker State 400.
  • An autographed football from former Chicago Bears All-Pro Linebacker Brian Urlacher.
  • An autographed basketball  from former Atlanta Hawks Dominique Wilkins; Wilkins is a retired nine-time NBA All-Star and one of the best dunkers in NBA history, earning the nickname The Human Highlight Film.
  • An autographed Udonis Haslem jersey from the 2006-07 season – a title year for the Miami Heat. Haslem played on all three championship teams for the Heat.

UPS is running these auctions on autographed football, basketball, racing and golf collectibles, including NASCAR, Formula 1, NFL, NBA, PGA and college team merchandise to benefit United Way. New auction items will post every week until the end of September. As of this post, there are three days left to big on a real Masters Pin Flag autographed by Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen and my personal favorite, a UPS Racing fire suit worn by driver, Carl Edwards. 

fire suit for auction

There don’t seem to be a lot of bids for these items, meaning that you can probably get something very cool for a very low price–and help a great charity along the way.

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An Easier Way of Donating to ALS Than #icebucketchallenge

August 16th, 2014 · Uncategorized

By now everyone has heard of the “Ice Bucket Challenge”. No doubt multiple people on your Facebook feed have done it, and of course there are celebrities all over from Justin Timberlake to Jimmy Fallon who have jumped on the bandwagon.

The story goes that the whole thing started on July 29, when former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates issued the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to his friends (including celebrities such as Tom Brady and Matt Ryan) to take the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease from which he suffers. Some media outlets have contradicted this, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who started it and when–the most important thing is that so far, $62.5 million and counting have been raised.

The one thing about viral phenomena like this is that they tend to come and go and then be long forgotten (remember #stopkony? Just barely, right?).

While ALS Association is reaping huge benefits, one thing to keep in mind is to remember them even after the hype has faded. One way to do this is to support ALS on eBay so purchases from specially marked products on eBay go to help them. But of course, an even better way is to donate directly to them at

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Nominate your charity to receive $10,000 from Toms of Maine #50statesforgood

August 9th, 2014 · Uncategorized

Toms of Maine is a great company based in, well, Maine that makes toothpaste, deodorants, and other products from all-natural ingredients. I’ve used their products and know first-hand how great they are–they don’t have artificial colors, flavors, fragrances, nor preservatives, and they don’t even use any products derived from animals. And yet their products work just as well or better than anything you’ll find out there.

Admittedly, sometimes when I use them I miss my radioactive-glowing-blue-shade of Aim Toothpaste, but my mouth and body feel so much better knowing I’m using natural products.

Toms is not only great for the planet in their business model, they also do amazing charity work. Right now they have a program called 50 States for Good going on. From now until September 30, you can nominate a charity in your state to receive a $10,000 grant from Tom’s. Just visit their Web site and click “Nominate a Nonprofit” and your favorite grassroots charity can be in the running to receive one of 50 grants, given to one non-profit in each state. So if you’re in a smaller state that doesn’t have a lot of not-for-profit activity, your chances of getting it are even better.

There’s also a cool featured called “Be a Virtual Volunteer” where just by Facebooking or Tweeting you can help a local grassroots organization.

Be sure to support this great effort from a great company.

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Buy a Subway Sandwich to Support Stand Up To Cancer

August 2nd, 2014 · Uncategorized

Feel like buying two $5 footlongs at Subway (okay, sorry for getting that song in your head). From now until September 15, pay with your Mastercard and you’ll not only get lunch out of it, Subway and Mastercard will donate to Stand Up to Cancer to accelerate innovative cancer research to get new therapies to patients quickly.

Since 2008, Stand Up To Cancer has raised more than $261 million, 3 of which (and counting) have been raised by this campaign. But hurry, you only have a few weeks left to help.

stand up to cancer

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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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