Julie Soforenko and I began talking about co-authoring an article back in September. But, as life would have it, it took some time to coordinate our schedules. When we finally got the chance to talk about it, the holidays were on our mind. We discussed our love for this time of year and how being in the social entrepreneurial space has changed our perspective on gifts. It then occurred to both of us- we had found our topic. We know that many of you share the same desire to make an impact this holiday season-using your finances and time to bless those who truly need hope. So weâ€™ve compiled a list of 18 ways you can support the causes closest to your heart. Why 18? In Judaism, 18 symbolizes â€œlife,â€ and these organizations do stellar work improving the lives of the people they serve.
Start with the Basics: Food and Water
We all know the important role that clean water has in the general well being of an individual. So, for this holiday season, you have some options to provide water for those currently living without!
charity:water charity:ball (Global)
Going to be in the New York area on December 14th? Instead of spending a fortune on dinner and theater, take your sweetheart to the ball! Last yearâ€™s charity:ball brought over 1300 people to the event including celebrities, dignitaries and people just like you and me. Tickets can be purchased on the website. All proceeds go to support charity:water and its work around the world.
Advent Conspiracy (Global)
Last year, this organization captured the attention from people around the United States to do Christmas differently. Take the opportunity to provide water for others- â€œmake this your new traditionâ€.
Adventures in Health Education and Agricultural Development (Africa)
For a smaller NGO feel, check out AHEAD Inc. Through a partnership Alternative Gifts, youâ€™re able to give clean water to the people of Gambia and Tanzania on behalf of a friend or family member. And if you like supporting the smaller, less known folks out there, this is the place for you!
From Thanksgiving to the New Year we skip (hopefully not slip) from parties to potlucks, and they always center around food. These organizations go beyond direct giving and help families to provide food for themselves through sustainable farming so that your gift will continue growing long after your snowman punch bowl is packed away
Learning and giving unite in the Holiday Spoons Project. Teach kids about hunger through arts and then do a craft sale to benefit your local food shelter. Who could resist buying Santa on a spoon?
Helen Keller Intl: Homestead Food Production (Asia)
While we can stop by the supermarket to pick up ingredients for sweet potato pie and green bean casseroles, many familiesâ€™ only chance at nutrition is the soil in their backyard. Through HKL thousands of women are presented with seeds, training, and support to cultivate fruit and vegetable gardens, nourishing their families and filling out their income.
Donating to one stop food banks is a popular and important act of giving this time of year-and we encourage you to continue to do so. But here’s an organization that teaches nutrition, how to grow food, and even business development for creating income from farming? If you believe in food security long after the leftovers disappear, then check out Africare.
Quality of Life: Health and Education
As it gets chillier, we put extra Kleenex in our pockets, stock up on Nyquil, and try avoid the germs that come with all the handshakes, kisses and fingerfood. These organizations give families access to health care so they can enjoy not only their holidays, but every day, in health and happiness.
Mothers and babies symbolize hope and unconditional love-two messages that ring throughout the holiday season. Help protect these special people by giving hospitals and clinics the equipment and training they need through Infante Sano.
Border Green Energy Team: Burma Solar Clinics Project (Burma)
When youâ€™re decorating the tree and the baby lodges a cranberry up her nose, health care is not an immediate concern. If the tot doesn’t sneeze out the fruit, you can take her quickly to the nearest hospital. In many places the closest access to medical care is hundreds of miles away. BGET trains new medics and provides solar power equipment to remote clinics deep within Burma. Each clinic serves 3,000-5,000 people.
Touching lives in three continents, Esperanca gives treasured gifts that many take for granted, like tooth paste and dental floss, to the poor. In addition, they provide comprehensive health education programs and an invaluable surgery service.
Spread some holiday spirit in the form of a brighter future. Kids around the world need access to education. Hereâ€™s a way you can bring that joy to a kidâ€™s life this holiday season.
Whether youâ€™re passionate about Africa or Latin America, hereâ€™s a great way to involve your entire family in providing education to kids around the world! Choose a project, throw a party and see your impact!
Reach the Children
One of our favorite things about this website is the breakdown of how much your dollar is really worth! For just $1, you can provide the resources to keep a childâ€™s life free from AIDS. How about $50? You can pay a teacherâ€™s salary for two weeks!
Does your loved one have a passion for both education and microfinance? Hereâ€™s a peer-to-peer lending site where you can invest in an individual who wants to grow in their knowledge!
The Tree Toppers: Microfinance and the Environment
Microfinance is especially close to our hearts, as we both work for pretty stellar organizations providing hope for people around the world through resources. If you usually buy dad (or mom) a new set of wrenches each year, think of microfinance as a toolbox for the poor to build their own livelihood. And if you want to take it a step further, you can give them a greeting card with a hammer on it.
Opportunity International (Global)
With their holiday OptINnow gift cards you can share the power of microfinance with family, friends, and co-workers. This is a creative way for you to educate your loved ones on the economic tool that lifts millions out of poverty. After all, does Dad really need another tie?
During the holidays our thoughts go to where it all started. Using peer to peer lending, you can pick a Palestinian entrepreneur and help create peace and prosperity in the Middle East this holiday season.
In the U.S. there are 26.8 million small businesses. Communities need them, families depend on them and ACCION USAâ€™s holiday campaign will help support them with microloans and financial education.
Have a tree hugger in your family? Here are some clever ways to save the environment and spread holiday cheer!
World Wildlife Foundation
WWF provides ways for you to shop green, buy a gift for the planet on behalf on someone you love! They even give you tips on ways to conserve energy this season!
â€œGive the Gift of Natureâ€ this holiday season. You can adopt an acre around the world, save a Northern Jaguar, be a â€œhummingbird heroâ€ or preserve the worldâ€™s water sources. Is your sweetie a social media guru? Show him or her how much you care with a Nature Conservancy e-card or links to their facebook quiz! And if thatâ€™s not enough, feel free to get your loved one a membership to this organization working to save our planet.
Not sure which organization to go with? Check out this link at JustGive.org and youâ€™ll be able to find a wide variety of ways to give back to the environment this holiday season. Theyâ€™ve got a long list organized from A-Z!
May Your Days be Merry and Bright with Generosity
In the social entrepreneurship, we’re all about innovation and the empowerment that comes through hope. These aren’t new concepts. In fact, one could argue that the Holidays were meant not to indulge in materialism and gluttony, but to remember the blessings of food, water, health, education, our environment, resources. And then, to celebrate through providing these things to others. This year and into 2010, let’s take these ideas to the next level. Use your holiday generosity to improve the lives of people around the world and in your own backyard. Amy and I hope that you and your loved ones have a beautiful, healthy, and meaningful holiday season.