The holiday shopping season is now in full swing, and while shopping for your loved ones is fun, it’s rarely easy. There is the guy who has everything, the girl who wants nothing, or the kid who wants it all. In recent years, my father has resorted to forcing me to come up with a holiday wish list, because there’s very little I need, and even less that I desire.
The holidays are a time of goodwill—not only toward those we care most about, but toward our fellow man. From the Salvation Army bell-ringers outside the department stores to the winter coat drives, it’s a time to help out where we can. I consider myself blessed to work at a radio station that volunteers itself to Toys For Tots. We help with toy drives, coin runs, and helping Santa deliver the toys to local schools. It is gratifying beyond words when you can help someone celebrate Christmas, knowing that they might otherwise go without.
As with all charitable acts, a little bit goes a long way. Often, it only takes one toy, or the change in your ashtray or piggybank. All of these “drops in the bucket” eventually make it full, and the little bit that you’ll never miss helps to make someone’s holiday complete.
This week, I learned about a few websites that harness the power and convenience of online shopping and turn it into charitable donations. In most cases, it’s completely effortless, allowing you to choose the charity that will benefit.
The first is iGive.com. Just sign up at the website, install the browser extension, and start shopping. With over 900 participating online merchants, much of your current online shopping may already qualify for an in-kind donation to the charity of your choosing. When you sign up, the cause you choose will automatically be given $5, and will receive another $5 when you make your first purchase. The ease of use and web-friendliness is what makes this so worthwhile. For example, if you’re shopping for mittens, and you Google it—or use Yahoo or Bing, for that matter—the results will display the iGive logo next to the purchases that would result in an iGive contribution. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Another similar site is GoodShop.com—which is actually a sister-site to GoodSearch.com, a search engine, powered by Yahoo, that makes donations to your cause when you use it to navigate the web. (GoodSearch is also worth looking into.) But with GoodShop, you can shop at most of the web’s top retailers—Best Buy, Staples, Amazon, Banana Republic,Avon, Apple, and many more—and a percentage of what you spend will benefit the charity of your choosing. The site also offers hundreds of coupons from participating sites—so you might actually save money while doing some good in the world.
And finally, I think I’ve probably written before about the Greater Good Network, but it’s worth repeating. It’s a network of websites offering an enormous selection of unique, hand-made, fair-trade items from around the world, at prices that seem too good to be true. Choose your cause—Hunger, Breast Cancer, Animal Rescue, Veterans, Autism, Child Health, Literacy, or the Rain Forest—and then shop the store. (My favorite is Literacy.) You’ll find thousands of gifts that simply aren’t available in a store—really meaningful gifts for that special person on your shopping list. The Greater Good Network also allows you to buy truly life-altering gifts for strangers around the world. You can send an African girl to school, teach a woman in Darfur to read and write, or provide a bicycle to a child in an impoverished nation, so that they can get to school. Find out more at GreaterGood.org.
This weekend, as you’re wrapping up your online shopping, take a moment to check these out. Doing so could genuinely help someone who could really use it.
Originally printed in “Pulse,” 12/08/2011.
© Damien Willis, 2011. All rights reserved.