You may well be exhausted from the Christmas rush. But with just a week to go, if you still have gifts to get, why not consider one that can benefit someone other than the recipient?
So much of our seasonal spend ends up unloved and unwanted. Why not take the opportunity to help those most in need at this time? Charities have increasingly made donating both easier and more attractive, with many now packaging donations as “gifts” which can appeal more to little people than nominal amounts.
What’s on offer?
One thing is for sure: you won’t be short of potential charity gifts this Christmas. Many charities offer a plethora of choices.
Oxfam remains a key player in the charity gift space and this year again has a range of gifts available at different price tags. Options this year include animals such as honeybees, goats and chickens, while it also offers the chance to donate money towards one of its programmes, such as educating girls or taking care of young families.
Those who donate will get a gift card in the post or an e-card, recognising their purchase.
Trócaire is another charity that has been active in the charity gift space for a long time. This year it has its usual range of chickens (€8) and goats (€50) that you can buy as a gift but it also has some new options, including the gift of a school kit (€30). The money will go towards sending a child to school, and help pay for school fees and teachers’ salaries, as well as and books and pencils.
A larger donation of €1,000 can be put towards fixing a well, and helping to maintain wells that have fallen into disrepair.
With Trócaire, you receive a card featuring a stunning photograph relating to your gift to give to the person of your choice, as well as information about the gift you have purchased.
Given the homelessness crisis, it is an area likely to be on the minds of many families in Ireland this Christmas, and charities in the sector are making it easier to donate.
While Focus Ireland doesn't offer "gifts" as such, it makes an effort to give you an idea of just what your donation will do and therefore make it more tangible. For example, if you donate €40, the charity says it will be used to provide much-needed hot, nutritious meals for families; €250 will provide vital support for children in emergency accommodation.
St Vincent de Paul, which aims to help those at risk of poverty, moved into the gift space about five years ago in an effort to boost online donations. “It helps donors visualise the type of support that SVP can provide for families at Christmas,” a spokesman says.
It offers a range of gifts aimed at helping families in need this Christmas, including a Christmas fire (€60); a bicycle (€50) or a favourite book (€15). And again, if you want to gift this to someone else, you can get a special card in the post recognising your donation.
Barnardos, which aims to help children and also support their parents, has a range of “gifts for good”, offering an “alternative, ethical gift” for family or friends at Christmas. For example, you could offer the gift described as “a new chapter of opportunity” (€35) for someone, which helps support language and development, or “a good night’s sleep” at €50, which is a gift of a duvet, pillow and set of covers.
And if you’re unwilling to give into the pressure from little people to get a family pet, another option is to consider sponsoring one. The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) is looking for people to sponsor a pet this Christmas.
According to a spokeswoman, when you sponsor an animal, you are helping to care for a specific one. You can choose from animals including Frodo, a Shetland pony (€50), Nellie, a pig (€30); or Lexi, a Jack Russell (€30).
You can also “sponsor” an orphaned puppy, which means that your money will go to the DSPCA to help it take care of the puppy.
Do you really buy an animal?
Donating money by buying a gift at Christmas doesn’t always mean you actually buy the underlying “gift” be it a hive of honeybees, a clutch of chickens or a Christmas tree. It often means your money will support the charity’s work in a particular area.
“When you purchase an Oxfam Unwrapped gift, your donation will fund projects that your gift represents,” the charity says. “The gifts support the full range of Oxfam’s work – from emergency responses to advocacy.”
It runs four funds – focused on saving lives; livelihoods; water for all; and investing in futures. This means that if you buy a gift of a goat, your money will go into Oxfam’s livelihoods fund, which helps communities that rely on animals to have a secure and sustainable living. So it could be spent on providing livestock, or the charity might instead see helping farmers learn new agricultural techniques, or providing veterinary care for their animals or even village grain banks, as being more important.
Similarly, when you buy such a gift with SVP, you’re really just making a donation.
“No actual toys or food are involved. The gifts are shown as simply indicative of the type of support the donations are used for,” says a spokesman for the charity.
If you do really want to give a tangible gift there are other options, however. SVP, for example, also runs a “giving tree” initiative. This can be organised by businesses or schools and involves each participant getting a “tag” with an age group indicated on it. The participant then buys a new gift for the child or adult indicated on their tag, and the gift is left under the organisation’s giving tree or collection point. They are then dropped off to SVP to be distributed before Christmas.
Trócaire operates a slightly different model, in that your donation will go towards purchasing a gift, as well as funding critical work in the relevant programme. So, for example, if you buy chicks or seeds for someone, your money will go towards the purchase of these gifts for families in need.
But as a spokeswoman notes, the money can also be used to fund other critical work in the charity’s related programmes.
“Sometimes we are oversubscribed for certain gifts, in which case we will use some of the money to purchase similar gifts. For example, some of the money donated to buy goats may be used to fund other agricultural gifts instead. Either way, we make sure your gift makes a real difference in the lives of people who need it,” she says.
The gifts are sourced in the countries where they are needed, so that they also benefit the local businesses and farmers that supply them.
“This is the most cost-efficient way to distribute gifts so less of your money is spent on the logistics and transportation of gifts and more money reaches vulnerable families the developing world,” the charity says.
Charity gifts this Christmas
What: A bar of soap can stop the spread of deadly disease and even save a life
How much? €5
What: Chicks grow up to be one of the most useful resources for a family in need, and as they produce more chicks, it’s a gift keeps on giving.
How much? €8
What: Goats provide families with nutritious milk, and fertiliser for crops, and their offspring will add to the herd or can be passed to another family.
How much? €35
Care for a baby
What: This gift helps families, from the youngest member to the oldest, survive crisis situations through life-saving emergency aid.
How much? €20
What: A €150 donation towards the work of the charity helping those in need.
How much? €150
Where: St. Vincent de Paul
My First Teddy
What: A €5 donation towards the work of the charity helping those in need.
How much? €150
Where: St Vincent de Paul
What: An in-calf dairy heifer
How much? €1,800
Sponsor a pet
What: With this gift you’ll get a picture and story about your chosen animal, as well as a sponsorship certificate.
How much? €30
Hook, line and dinner
What: This package can help turn poor Ethiopian farmers into prosperous fishermen.
How much? €14
Where: Christian Aid
Eight avocado trees
How much: €10
How much: €18