Countdown to Clean #2: Give two gifts for the price of one

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATip: Buy holiday gifts that give back.

Problem: Following the materialistic binge of frenzied Black Friday sales, Small Business Saturday promotions and Cyber Monday online marketing, finally we have arrived at #GivingTuesday. This day is like Alka-Selzer tonic after a weekend of heavy partying. Yes, we are a country of materialistic consumers who don't really need more things yet we're always looking for creative gifts (why I favor experiences as presents). We are also conscientious consumers. And 2014 is the easiest year yet to give gifts with a higher purpose (and I'm not talking about adopting a heifer, though that might work for your family).

We care:
- 54% of Americans bought a product associated with a cause over the last 12 months, marking an increase of 170% since 1993, according to 2013 Cone Social Impact Study.
- 83% of Americans wish more of the products, services and retailers they use would support causes, says Cone's 2010 Cause Evolution Study.
- 80% of consumers are willing to switch from one brand to another brand that is about the same in price and quality, if the other brand is associated with a good cause. (Cone 2010 study)
- The least-effort-required succeeds. Consumers are most likely to engage in conscientious behavior that requires little or no additional cost or effort from them, according to Havas PR's BeCause It Matters research.Luckily sellers have made it super easy to shop for gifts that do good and please the recipient.

Two easy options:
  • Find the gifts that give back. From holiday greeting cards and toys to jewelry, apparel and much more, you may be surprised by the variety of merchandise for sale by not-for-profits and non-governmental organizations like UNICEF and World Wildlife Fund, and cultural institutions (MOMA, The Met, The Smithsonian, New York City Ballet) that support their causes. There are plenty of sustainable, fair trade designers -- like MUJUS, which makes colorful jewelry made from seeds -- and others who made the charitable gift lists by NPR, Harper's Bazaar and Huffington Post.
  • Let the gifts find you. When you are checking out, whether online or in-store, you may be presented with an opportunity to give to a cause. While this option is a monetary donation, rather than a hard good, it's happening because you are making a gift purchase at that retailer. For example, The Limited's online checkout process presents an opportunity to donate by simply adding a charity donation "item" to your "bag." GoDaddy, the website domain and hosting company, allows you to round up your purchase total to the next dollar and contribute that to charity. The Amazon Smile Foundation donates 0.5% of every purchase on to a cause of your choice; JustAMoment's choice is The Doe Fund, which provides "the homeless with a hand up, not a handout."
If you do want to give directly to those in need, there are plenty of places to volunteer time or donate toys, coats or cash; and sometimes those cash donations are matched by your employer or another corporation, as in the case of Johnson & Johnson matching donations* made to Save the Children.

The most creative matching gift I've seen is Macy's Believe endeavor: For every letter to Santa Claus that Macy's receives, it will donate $1** to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Incredible.

Next Step: Write your letter to Santa! And make three gifts this year ones that give back.

*Up to $200,000
**Up to $1 million
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