Charities know that people like to think that their money is going to something concrete (rather than the necessary but not as heart-warming "operating costs") and have come up with all kinds of ideas - A. recently decided to use his "share" money to adopt a polar bear through the Wildlife Federation - he received a certificate of adoption and a picture and everything and that polar bear is HIS. (And as an added bonus, he gets a whole lotta junk mail now). He feels like his contribution has really made a difference.
"Oxfam Unwrapped" has taken this idea and created a website letting you choose something specific to pay for in someone's honor, and they'll send you a gift card to give to that person - or you can personalize it online and they'll send it to the recipient for you. It's fun to browse through the site and think who would most appreciate the can of worms for farmers, or even better, a pile of manure (I can think of at least a few people who would love to give a pile of ^&* to someone for the holidays). Both are under $25. On the sweeter side, give a dozen chicks to a family to raise and earn income or some soap to help stop the spread of disease in a community.
If you're feeling flush, there are gifts that would in themselves make a world of difference - helping a village recover from flooding or rebuilding a primary school. Go browse through the categories - can you imagine how much good could be done if, instead of buying each other gifts this Christmas that we don't really need, we put our money into helping others build sustainable futures? For the amount of that iPhone decorative case, you could pay for a child's school meal program in Africa.
I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Oxfam America Unwrapped and received a credit for a gift on the Oxfam site.