Ask money: charity gifts

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charity gift
Illustration: Beatrice Herman

Question: What is a charity gift? Which one should I choose? 

charity gift
Illustration: Beatrice Herman

Let’s face it: most students in St Andrews have all the tacky Christmas jumpers, bottles of supermarket wine, and cheeky epigraph-bearing mugs that they could ever need or want. Instead of scouring the internet for discount kitsch, consider using your gift to do some good.

If  your mother can’t help but continually tag you in cat videos, consider the World Wildlife Fund. For any amount per month (even as little as a quid), you can adopt just about anything, from an orangutan to a snow leopard, on behalf of a friend or family member. Regrettably, the animal in question will not be arriving on your best friend’s doorstep, but a thorough amount of information about conservation and a stuffed animal will accompany a delivered adoption certificate.

For a recipient who would rather support a local cause, several groups, notably the Guide Dog Charity and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, allow you to “adopt” a service dog in much the same way, by paying for the expensive training necessary to provide companion and service dogs to the deaf and blind.

For that financially-savvy cousin whose childhood lemonade stand evolved into a diversified stock portfolio, a Kiva loan could be ideal. Choose any card value above £20 and your recipient will be able to choose a business or entrepreneur in the developing world to loan the money to. What’s more, this is a gift that keeps on giving; when the first loan is repaid, the money can be offered again to more borrowers.

If you know any new parents, Unicef will allow you to add to the toy pile beside the newborn’s crib while also sending all the profits from the plaything to children in need. Depending on your price range, you can pay as little as £3 for a memorable stuffed toy.

When it comes to that coworker with the Etsy store and forty Pinterest boards, you might head for the craft section. Purchase some yarn, knitting needles, and all the necessary accessories (including a book if you’re a novice) and spend some time creating beanies or blankets. The completed project can be sent to a variety of causes.

For animal lovers, knit items should be mailed to Cats Protection, The Donkey Sanctuary, or Battersea Dogs and Cats. For those who can’t watch the news without breaking into tears, post items to Charity Clowns for the children of Kosovo, Hand in Hand for Syria, or Little Dresses for Africa. Closer to home, Bonnie Babies works for UK children and Sunshine International Blankets of Love provides blankets for the elderly in care homes worldwide.

A full list of worthy charities to whom you can mail all sorts of knitting projects, from clowns to dolls that represent “knitting” the family back together (for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Children’s Fund), can be found in Saga magazine.

Though the weather may be cold, your green-thumbed grandmother is probably already planning her spring garden. John Chambers Wildflower Seeds works to maintain native wildflower breeds that may be threatened by environmental change. Live Monarch offers free milkweed seeds to preserve monarch butterflies. For £17 (or your chosen amount), you can donate drought-resistant crop seeds to a family in need, a gift that keeps on giving as families eat the nutritious harvest of plants like cassava and rice and replant them for continued sustenance.

Finally, for that one friend who keeps pestering you to watch Before the Flood, plant a tree. For this environmentally-minded present, your options are practically endless. In the UK, consider the Woodland Trust, Trees4Scotland, Trees for Life in the Scottish Highlands, and the National Forest. Elsewhere, Plant a Billion serves Brazil, the southeastern United States, and China while JNF will plant a tree in Israel.

So this year, forego the hackneyed bottles of Scotch and body lotion and give a gift that gives back.

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