Top Ten Gifts for the Philanthropist

Do you have a person in your life who is passionate about doing good? Shopping for someone with a bleeding heart and discerning ethical standards can be a challenge (oy…the look on their face as they consider whether the gorgeous shirt you bought them was stitched together by a child in a sweat shop), but it can also be a lot of fun. Let yourself be fueled by their “do gooder” passion and love of the earth as you head out and shop for just the right gift this holiday season. Here are some of my top picks this year.

1.Fair Trade Chocolate

Everyone loves chocolate, right? But for socially conscious people, the child slave labour often used in the cocoa industry can leave a horribly bitter taste in their mouth. Unless a product is certified fair trade chocolate, there is no way to know exactly how it was produced or who was exploited in doing so. When you buy fair trade chocolate from companies like Camino (owned by an Ottawa-based Co-Operative) or Divine, you can feel good about where it came from and your friends can indulge guilt-free.

2. A Scarf that Supports Women-Owned Business in Africa

Earlier this year, a group of bloggers from the US traveled to Ethiopia to raise awareness about the devastation caused by the drought and other challenges faced in the region. While they were there, they visited fashionABLE, a non-profit organization that works with women who have been exploited due to the effects of poverty. Through fashionABLE the women are able to be part of a sustainable business that restores their dignity and gives them better chances in life. You can buy the gorgeous scarves these women make online.

3. A Soft Toy from IKEA Helps Children Around the World

From November 4 to December 29, 2012, the IKEA Foundation will be donating $1 from each soft toy sold at IKEA to UNICEF and Save the Children to support their education programs. This is a great gift for the children of your philanthropist friends or for the children in your life who dream of making the world a better place. This year we’ll be putting these in the charity baskets at our workplace and our kids’ school too. It is a great way to help local families in need while also supporting children’s education worldwide.

4. A Kiva Microloan

There is nothing like the feeling of knowing you’re helping someone else’s dreams come true. If you buy a Kiva gift card for your loved one, they can use it to give a loan directly to an entrepreneur in need of funds to start or grow their business and get out of poverty.

5. Gift Certificate or Gift from an Ethical Retailer

There are some great retailers that put a lot of thought into where they source their products from. Whether they are helping to support sustainable cooperatives in developing countries, ensuring products aren’t tested on animals, or only stocking products that meet the highest environmental standards, these businesses are a place you and your conscience can shop with confidence. Terra20 is a few Canadian retailer and e-tailer that tags its products with icons to help you understand the ethical and environmental features of the product. Ten Thousand Villages sells hand-made crafts and fair trade foods sourced from around the world. Another option is an Etsy gift card, which they can use to buy goods directly from artisans locally (I love their local search!) or around the world.

6. A Goat, a Mango Tree, School Supplies

Charitable organizations like Save the Children, UNICEF and Plan have holiday gift catalogs where people can a wide variety of gifts that help meet needs in developing countries. This ranges from healthcare needs (stocking a medical clinic, newborn care packages) to farming (farm animals, seeds, fruit trees) to clean water and education needs. Pick the issues you know your friend cares about the most and buy a gift of hope that will bring a smile to her face.

7. New Internationalist Gifts

New Internationalist is a magazine that reports on “issues of world poverty and inequality”, focusing on the “unjust relationship between the powerful and the powerless in the fight for global justice”. On their website, they have a shop that sells some amazing products that are ethically sourced from fair trade and sustainable sources. I particularly love their cook books, like The World in Your Kitchen. If I’m on your shopping list this year, or if your socially conscious friend is also a social media fiend, these seemingly twitter-bird-inspired stainless steel jug and cups look fabulous (P.S. — I think I saw them in store at Terra20 in Ottawa too).

8. Books to Fuel Their Passion
There are some amazing people doing amazing things in this world and a lot of them have written book about it. Know what your loved one’s passion is? Find out who has written books about their experiences or their journey doing good in that space and wrap it up for your friend. Even better, buy two copies so that the two of you can read it together and discuss it afterward over coffee. If you’re not sure exactly what their passion is, a couple of books I love for socially minded Canadians and parents are the Kielburgers’ books Living Me to We: The Guide for Socially Conscious Canadians and The World Needs Your Kid: How to Raise Children Who Care and Contribute are inspiring reads full of practical ideas. They also have a bunch of books for kids to help them understand global environmental and social justice issues. Another favourite of mine is Franke James book Bothered by My Green Conscience.

9. Canada Helps Gift Card

Are you stumped? Not sure to get for the person who has everything or wants nothing?A Canada Helps gift card allows them to make a donation to any of the 85,000 registered Canadian charities listed on the website.

10. The Gift of Your Time

Actions speak louder than pretty packages under the tree. Give your friend the gift of your time by offering to spend time volunteering with them at the charity of their choice, whether that is serving lunch at the soup kitchen, sorting food at the food bank, or helping out with a children’s charity event. If you feel like you need to give more than just your time, offer to take them out for lunch at a nice restaurant or cafe featuring local ingredients when you’re done with your volunteering shift. (photo credit: LindsayT… on flickr)

Are you a philanthropist? Other than the usual “world peace”, what is on your wish list this year?

Annie has been blogging about the art and science of parenting on the PhD in Parenting Blog since May 2008. She is a social, political and consumer advocate on issues of importance to parents, women and children. She uses her blog as a platform to create awareness and to advocate for change, calling out the government, corporations, media and sometimes other bloggers for positions, policies and actions that threaten the rights and well-being of parents and their children.

Create PDF    Send article as PDF   


  1. Leslie says

    Love this post Candace.  Me to We also has their Artisans collection (purchase gifts for you or for a friend!)  You can also gift chickens, a goat, water and other great life-sustaining items to families in Africa, India and other socio-economically challenged areas of the world.

    Plan Canada has some interesting items and the ability to gift to families in need in third world countries as well.  They also have some specific “Because I’m a Girl” items!

    The scarves from fashionABLE are AMAZING!

  2. Elizabeth Kane says

    Ooooh, I know a good friend on my list who would love a gift from a few of these places.  Thanks for the recommendations, Annie!

  3. a hatch says

    I was looking for a present for some who doesn’t want a present, BUT would accept a donation to a charitable cause in her name.

    Any ideas on that….(last year I donated a irrigation system to a village in central Africa, year before that I fed homeless people in our community on her birthday.)


Leave a Reply