20 gifts that give back (for mostly under $20)

This is just my favorite Christmas photo, but I'm pretty sure I gifted a dinner here.

This is just my favorite Christmas photo, but I’m pretty sure I gifted a dinner here.

I love giving while giving back; I think it’s rewarding, adds a story to the gift, and beats mass consumerism. But it can be challenging to choose something practical that the recipient will actually like and maybe even use, find legitimate websites, and not spend a fortune. Plus, let’s be honest, donating to charity in someone’s name is like naming a star after them…it sounds like a nice idea but the recipient didn’t get anything out of it.

I challenged myself to a year of gifting only products that support causes I care about after last Christmas, and because I realized how slim and outdated the sources are for the concept, I’ve compiled my favorite, affordable picks for every kind of recipient on any holiday. Here are 20 things that your friends and family will love while they love knowing they’ve been part of a little good going a long way.

    For her

  1. Live fashionABLE scarves – One of my go-to’s, this organization is creating sustainable work for women in Africa, and the merch is cute! There’s no gal in your life that has too many scarves, and the gift comes with the personal story of the artisan who made it. ($28-65)
  2. LUSH Charity Pot body lotion – By working with partners, LUSH donates 100% of the price of each pot to charity — tons of charities. The company has supported over 350 grassroots campaigns, and the whole operation is ethical, handmade and green! ($5.95-22.95)
  3. Peacekeeper Cause-Metics – Shop cute and simple balms, glosses, lip sticks and nail polishes knowing 100% of the profits support women’s health and human rights. I love the gift packs. ($8-24)
  4. Jewelry – We all know there’s an elastic bracelet for every cause, but there’s legitimately nice jewelry coming from empowered artisans as well. I have to advocate Women at Risk International, whose founder spoke at a march against human trafficking in D.C. this year and moved everyone with her mission. ($18-50)
  5. Mocha Club tote – Super cute with a pocket, supports good work in Africa that’s transparently reported in newsletters. More at No. 19. ($18)

    For him

  6. Uncommon goods hygiene goodies – Get him a full kit whether he’s a working man or a bearded gent, there are customized packages for every kind of guy that they won’t buy for themselves. ($40-50)
  7. Brews cruiser – I have to admit this six pack beer holder that hangs on a bike is for just about anyone who can pull it off. You know who they are. ($69)
  8. Warby Parker glasses or sunglasses – This is a pricey one, but not comparatively, and they’re stylish. If you need new frames anyway, why not buy from the company who’s donating one for one? ($95-105) You can give a gift card if the price is too steep, or consider SOLVE Sunglasses, which donates to clean water projects. ($84-104)
  9. (RED) Tech – If your guy’s up for bright red headphones, iPhone cases or iPad covers, this is the shop for him. Support Bono’s fight against AIDS along with so many stars and retailers. ($29-200) Browse apparel or accessories alternatively.
  10. NIKE Dri-Fit Tech Hat – Benefits St. Judes Children’s Hospital, comes in blue and black. ($18) I also love St. Judes’ jogjacket ($20) and golf gift set ($28) for athletes.

    For kids

  11. TOMS shoes – If you don’t know TOMS gives a pair every time a pair is bought, you have to get out more. Tom paved the way in one-for-one giving setting a hugely popular trend for the sake of helping others. The kids shoes are adorable and affordable. ($32-69)
  12. One World Futbol Project soccer ball – The ball is designed to be indestructible, never needing a pump. For each ball purchased — in youth or adult sizes — disadvantaged youth will be provided a soccer ball. ($39.50)
  13. Good Spread – For every packet of natural peanut butter purchased, a malnourished child will be provided therapeutic food. Started by two guys out of Nashville. ($15-100)
  14. Sprinkles cupcake mix – Take on a DIY project together from the original cupcake bakery in LA. Not only can this be a family activity, Sprinkles has consistently supported cancer research, schools and children’s hospitals with charitable cupcakes and portions of their profits. ($14)
  15. FEED Bags – Choose from duffle bags, messengers, backpacks and totes. Every FEED product donates a meal to a hungry child, and the number of meals you helped provide is stenciled on the bag. Yes…there are also wine bags. ($20-495)


    For anyone

  16. ONEHOPE Wine – Just when wine couldn’t get any trendier, ONEHOPE helped do good-ing catch on. The company now supports over a dozen causes and has expanded to coffee and tea, and the cutest gift packs ever. ($19-50)
  17. MiiR water bottles – One dollar from each bottle purchased provides one person with clean water for a year. Imagine if you gifted water bottles for a whole team! Growlers and even bikes are also available as part of the MiiR project. ($15-25)
  18. Raven + Lily soap and candles – This foundation’s employing women in Cambodia, Ethiopia, India and the U.S., paying fair trade wages and breaking the cycle of poverty. Plus, the gifts are really nice. You can read some of the artisans stories on the website. ($7-22)
  19. Mocha Club coffee – There are a lot of ways to support farmers or those less fortunate through the coffee you buy, but I love that it’s Mocha Club’s premise. Started by some of my favorite musicians in Nashville, the non-profit asked people to give up a mocha a month at the height of the coffee craze. Join the club for just $7 a month to fund powerful projects in Africa or simply buy a bag of coffee through the initiative. There’s a gift set with a mug included, too. Plus, check out the mix tape collaboration available now. ($9-20)
  20. ASPCA 10-piece gift set – Yes, I included a gift for your pet on the list. In fact, you can gift every pet you know one of these toys and support the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. ($12.99)

Be sure to check out my travel and foodie gift guides, too!

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