DIY Gift and Donation Combinations

In Monday’s post I suggested that making a donation to a non-profit organization can be a terrific gift for someone. But even when you have carefully considered the recipient’s interests and know their favorite charities, it can be more fun when you have an actual gift to offer, wrapped up nicely. So today I’m going to look at ways to combine donations with tangible gifts in creative ways.

My inspiration for this is the World Wildlife Fund‘s “adoption” gifts. For a small donation you can symbolically adopt an endangered animal for yourself or a friend. For a little more money, you get a cute plush toy that looks like that animal.

Bison photo CC via

A few years ago I adopted a bison as a birthday gift for a friend. When some of us took her to lunch to celebrate, I told her that her new “pet” would arrive in a couple of weeks. Then I watched her face a moment as she got the joke–she lives in a studio apartment! But she enjoyed the gift, as she’s visited South Dakota a few times and has actually seen bison, which I have not.

Shortly after, I made a donation to the USO in my Dad’s name for Father’s Day. As his birthday is also in June, he’s difficult to buy for. He was surprised and pleased by the idea, and I had taken him out to lunch–a more traditional celebration–a couple of weeks earlier for his birthday. (By the way, this is an example of choosing a gift based on the recipient. I don’t normally donate to the USO, but Dad was in the Navy late in World War 2 and said the USO was very good to them.)

The ready-made gift and donation combination got me thinking about ways to make a DIY gift package.

  • Buy a pretty basket, wooden bowl or other container, and tuck in a few fancy foods. Include a donation to a local food bank or similar organization.
  • If the recipient likes to cook, a cookbook or some kitchen gadgets also go with a donation to a food bank.
  • Buy or make a first aid kit and pair it with a donation to the American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, or a similar organization. This is great for new homeowners, newlyweds or new parents.
  • Membership in a museum or arts organization usually includes free or reduced admission to their galleries, and discounts on special programs and items purchased in their gift shop. That might be enough by itself, but if your budget allows, add a book on art, some art supplies, or something from the museum’s gift shop.
  • As one who loves to read, I often receive books or gift certificates to book stores as gifts. Match that with a donation to a local school or educational non-profit.
  • If I were donating to the USO in Dad’s name now, instead of in June, I’d pair it with a DVD of White Christmas. Another movie, book, or music with a military theme would work, too.
  • Kiva, a microfinance organization, offers gift certificates that allow recipients to choose the borrower via their website. Best of all, if the loan is repaid (most are) the gift can be loaned again and again. A book by Muhammed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, would be an excellent match, especially if the recipient doesn’t know much about microfinance.
  • Donors Choose also offers a gift card that lets gift recipients decide where their gift goes, but they help fund projects in US schools. Pair it with a book or some nice stationery supplies.

I could keep going, but you have the idea. Think about the people on your holiday gift list and what their interests are. It can be fun to pair a donation with a gift–and that gift will remind them of your contribution to one of their favorite causes whenever they use it.

Now it’s your turn. What non-profits do you love and what would make a good accompanying gift? Or, if you’re planning to give a donation as a gift, let us in on it–we promise not to tell!

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