2009 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts to people you don’t know

In our fifth installment of Unclutterer’s 2009 Holiday Gift Giving Guide we’re discussing charitable giving.

In our 2007 Guide, we suggested charities that you could donate to in someone’s honor. We continue to love this idea and suggest checking out Charity Navigator and Charity Watch to learn about legitimate charitable organizations. Giving to charities is nice because it’s completely clutter-free for the person honored through the gift.

This year, though, we want to focus on giving in a different way. As you enjoy this holiday season, consider giving a gift to someone you don’t know. It’s a way to experience the giving spirit without knowing who will benefit from your generosity. And, in some cases, you can clear things you don’t use out of your home. A handful of ideas:

  • Join the bone marrow registry.
  • Give blood.
  • Donate clothes and household items to charity.
  • Cut off your ponytail and donate it to Locks of Love.
  • Donate needed items to a food pantry.
  • Volunteer your organizing talents to a group in need.

In what ways do you plan to donate to people you don’t know? We’d love to read about your ideas in the comments. Also, don’t forget to check out our Unclutterer’s 2009 Holiday Gift Giving Guide Index Page for a listing of all the articles as we publish them.

25 Comments for “2009 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts to people you don’t know”

  1. posted by Paula on

    Giving blood is a nice idea. Many people are in dire need of this yet only few people choose to give it and it’s free to.

  2. posted by DawnF on

    There is a Meals On Wheels program in San Antonio that prepares and delivers hot meals to senior citizens. It is a fabulous program for the elderly. It would be wonderful for people to donate their money and/or time to a program such as this in their local area.

    The spirit of giving in this way would truly warm the hearts of elderly citizens who may not have any family or friends in their life or the means to prepare a hot meal for themselves.

    Merry Christmas and God Bless!

  3. posted by Sandi on

    We’ve given chicks, ducks, and goats to third world country recipients in the names of our children through Heifer International, donated to Kiva for microfinancing to help people in their sewing, pottery, and basket businesses (you can give as little as $25), and volunteered to be a bell-ringer for Salvation Army. The most personal and fun for me was hosting eight soldiers who could not go home to be with their families for Thanksgiving this year (we’re doing the same for Christmas) as we live near a military base. No clutter for any of these (except doing dishes!!!) and I still am feeling so grateful!

  4. posted by Brenda on

    I am already scheduled to give blood on Wednesday.
    I decided last year at Christmas time, that it was my goal to donate blood every December and during the month of my Birthday.
    This next year I plan to donate 6 times. You have to wait 4 weeks between donations.
    I have it all scheduled out. I will still be donating in December and during my birthday month.

  5. posted by cv on

    Brenda, here in the U.S., at least, there’s an 8-week waiting period between blood donations, unless you’re using an apheresis machine to donate only platelets or plasma.

    I highly recommend being a regular blood donor if you’re eligible. I always feel great after giving blood, though maybe it’s just the delicious cookies they have at the center where I donate.

  6. posted by Suzy on

    Your entry made me cry (I think I may be slightly hormonal …)

    I’m going to become a blood donor.

  7. posted by Egirl on

    On Women’s Adventure Magazine online I recently read about a guy named Ken John in Colorado who started a non-profit that distributes used outdoor gear and clothing to homeless people in Northern Colorado who are braving the elements in winter. The website is http://homelessgear.com/blog/. I encourage everyone to check out the article and video from their local Channel 9 news: http://www.9news.com/news/arti.....;catid=164. What an amazing idea! Bravo to Ken and Homeless Gear!

  8. posted by Plain Good Sense on

    Love it. What a timely post. My family just decided over Thanksgiving to not give gifts this year, but rather a charitable donation. We don’t have any kids in our family yet, so it’s just six adults who all have too much stuff anyway. We haven’t decided what we’ll give to yet, but my husband and I plan to donate $100 in honor of my brother and his wife, and $100 in honor of my father and his wife. That will make for a $200 donation to a local charity, which is how much we would have spent on gifts that no one really needs anyway. It’s a good feeling!

    We decided that once we have kids in our family again, we’ll likely resume the gift giving tradition, but I think it’s important to continually review your family’s “traditions” to see if they still fit with your family. For us, the tradition of gift giving and opening presents will not be one we partake in this year. Likely, we’ll eat lots of food and watch Christmas movies instead on Christmas morning. 🙂

  9. posted by Mary on

    People should look into Locks of Love before donating, because there’s a lot of false information circulating about it. People think they make wigs for cancer patients, and that simply isn’t true. Alopecia areata is their main focus.

  10. posted by Marisa on

    If you are looking for a way to give a more meaningful gift this holiday, I highly recommend looking into charity gift cards. This holiday season I am planning on buying several gift cards through Opportunity International, a non-profit organization that is one of the top microfinance organizations working to end global poverty. I have researched it and am amazed at how simple it is to do; pick the gift card amount- ranging from $25-$500-, pick the country, and then pick the specific aspiring entrepreneur you would like to support and empower. It is a great gift because you know that your money is going to an individual that has the passion to make a difference and who has a vision for success.

    Also, you know that your donation will not just touch the individual but it will reach and impact his/her family, community,social programs etc because of the multiplier effect- the outcomes seed larger outcomes and more and more people are therefore positively impacted by this donation. Check out http://www.optinnow.org/ and take a look at the gift card section.

  11. posted by Anita on

    All good ideas to keep in mind not only during the holiday season, but all year round.

    I’ve been looking into donating my hair, and found out a few things I thought worth sharing:
    1. there are a lot of charities looking for people to donate hair. Many are benefitting people with cancer, but also other disorders causing hair loss, such as kids’ alopecia.
    2. different charities have different criteria for the length and quality of hair they accept. Some accept as little as 8″ while for others the minimum is 12″, so it may be worth looking around depending on how much hair you are willing to part with.
    3. My hairdresser told me of one charity for which a minimum of 8″ makes one adult wig, while a minimum of 20″ makes 2 kids’ wigs, so it might be useful to look into those kinds of details as well, depending on what you’d like your hair to be used for.

  12. posted by Katherine on

    Please research any charity before donating.


  13. posted by Kathryn Fenner on

    I belong to a Rotary Club—and suggested that the many men (I assume women aren’t as hard to buy for, but…) who would likely get ties and colognes they don’t want ask instead for folks to contribute toward the member’s Paul Harris Fellowship, Polio Plus (matched by the Gates Foundation) and so on. The member gets a big boost for something important to him or her–weekly meetings are only the start of a Rotarian’s commitment.
    If someone you are giving a gift to belongs to such an organization, you might consider supporting their causes.Showing interest and support could help bring you closer to Dad or Aunt Millie.

  14. posted by melissa on

    THANK YOU for highlighting bone marrow donation! This summer a 28 year old American male donor saved my life when he gave his bone marrow to me, and I will be forever grateful to him.

    Loads of people don’t understand that donating these days just involves being hooked up to an iv machine for a few hours and is not the painful process it was a few years ago. It only takes one blood sample to get on the registry and it makes such a difference to peoe like me with bone marrow disorders. I see people every single day who are waiting fit donors and completely dependent on transfusions (I was getting 4 bags every week by the end) so please, please consider getting on the registry!!

  15. posted by Lisa F on

    I second Melissa’s comment – thank you SO much for highlighting the thought of becoming a bone marrow donor. In the summer of 2007 an anonymous donor allowed my mom the opportunity to keep fighting her disease (myelofibrosis) through bone marrow donation. In the time since the donation process, they have even met! It’s a wonderful organization that also can use volunteer support. Since I cannot be a donor myself, I work with the New England chapter to run and coordinate drives in my area.

    I ended up donating my hair in November 2008 to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. They ended up requiring less hair to make the donation and specifically support women with cancer: http://www.pantene.com/en-US/b.....ngths.jspx

  16. posted by Lisa F on

    Also forgot to mention – the Charity Navigator site is a fantastic place to research charities and whether they are fiscally and programatically sound: http://www.charitynavigator.org/

  17. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    I always participate in my local adopt-a-family program. I get the people’s wish lists (but no names) and shop for them. The emphasis is usually on clothes: sweaters, jackets, blue jeans, socks, etc. http://www.coastsidehope.org/adopt.html

  18. posted by The Simple Dollar » The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Book Editing Edition on

    […] 2009 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts to people you don’t know This is something I struggle with – gifts for people I don’t know well but am obligated to give a gift to (because of a gift exchange or the like). This is perhaps the best set of advice I’ve read for such a situation. (@ unclutterer) […]

  19. posted by Ellen on

    I also make a donation to a charity at Christmas because my family doesn’t exchange gifts. However, I must say that I probably wouldn’t do that as an obligatory gift (isn’t that an oxymoron?), unless I attached the note to a token gift. I’m more likely to give something from a local crafter or charity fund-raiser. That way I’m supporting someone local (which makes me feel better), and the “person I don’t know well” feels better because s/he doesn’t feel cheated at the gift exchange!

  20. posted by The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Book Editing Edition | Frugal Living News on

    […] 2009 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts to people you don’t know This is something I struggle with – gifts for people I don’t know well but am obligated to give a gift to (because of a gift exchange or the like). This is perhaps the best set of advice I’ve read for such a situation. (@ unclutterer) […]

  21. posted by More Gift Guides! « Kate Schmate on

    […] Unclutterer has a few good ones too, including gifts for kids and gifts to people you don’t know. […]

  22. posted by Nancy on

    I am giving blood Dec 8. I want to get back to giving regularly.

  23. posted by The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Book Editing Edition on

    […] 2009 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts to people you don’t know This is something I struggle with – gifts for people I don’t know well but am obligated to give a gift to (because of a gift exchange or the like). This is perhaps the best set of advice I’ve read for such a situation. (@ unclutterer) […]

  24. posted by Mariana Evica on

    First of all, let me say I feel a bit silly right now, since I posted on a similar forum for 2007 (d’oh!) but I’ll repost and hopefully unclutterer won’t clobber me 🙂

    By way of disclosure, let me say that I am an advocate for the following campaign — I don’t want this post to come off like I’m a “sock-puppet” – because I truly believe very deeply in the cause — which is, in fact, a cause to benefit ALL philanthropic campaigns.

    Just a little context:

    Consider that the amount of money spent on candy alone during the holiday season is greater than the annual budgets of the American Cancer Society, The American Heart Association and Habitat for Humanity combined.

    It’s not about reinventing the holiday. It’s about changing the way we look at gift giving and receiving. It’s taking money we usually spend on obligatory gifts with little meaning, and creating gifts of charity that give in multiple ways, to the receiver, the giver, and people who truly need.

    There is no question we are in the midst of difficult financial times. And if it has you feeling unsure or uncomfortable this holiday season, imagine how purely difficult it’s becoming for people who already, or are about to, depend on the generosity of others for the things that only a donation can provide.

    Please visit the website http://www.redefine-christmas.org and find us on facebook where we’re spreading the word! http://www.facebook.com/RedefineChristmas

    Two really great links for this are Justgive.org and changingthepresent.org – ways to give philanthropically online safely. I concur that it is of utmost importance to research a charity – also check out guidestar.org for evaluations. Charity Navigator (already mentioned above) and Guide Star use different algorithms for evaluating charities, so use your good judgment 🙂

    ~ M

    ~ M

  25. posted by zhou on

    guidestar.org for nfl news,nfl teams,evaluations. Charity Navigator (already mentioned above) and Guide Star use different algorithms 彩虹岛 for evaluating charities, so use your good judgment

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