As I write this on National Giving Day, a week ahead of Colorado Gives Day, the day after Cyber Monday, three days removed from Small Business Saturday, and Black Friday starting on Thursday and going into overtime for many businesses, I think of the casual conversations I’ve had recently with students who want to mark the holiday season and make a difference — all on a student’s budget.

Here are some of the ideas we came up with. The overriding theme is to make holiday giving simpler and more meaningful.

Let’s start with creative contributions.

Donate to non-profit organizations in honor of your friends and family. Some ideas and options are listed below. The first five organizations will send a personalized card explaining the gift for your gift recipient so you have something concrete to give them.

  1. KIVA allows you to make a “microloan” of $25 to a start-up entrepreneur in the developing world. Through KIVA, you can help fund a community garden and vegetable stand in Rwanda, a sewing cooperative in Peru, or hundreds of other income-generating projects described on its website. Once that loan is paid back, you can give it to another project. You can buy a $25 credit and let your gift recipient choose where to make the loan.
  2. Heifer International, a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to fighting hunger, allows you to purchase farm animals (from milk cows to honeybees to geese), water pumps, knitting supplies, and a host of other things for income-generating activities in poor countries. Find Heifer International.
  3. OXFAM America, also an NGO dedicated to fighting hunger, allows you to purchase farm animals, seeds, school supplies, emergency necessities, and many other things (even including manure for farming or emergency toilets for refugees) described on their website.
  4. UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, allows you to buy blankets, measles vaccines, mosquito nets, bicycles, soccer balls, winter coats, or a host of other supplies that benefit children and families. Browse UNICEF’s store.
  5. Seva Foundation works to fight blindness and restore sight in developing countries. You can purchase a 15-minute cataract surgery, train eye-care teams for remote rural areas, or support other services related to sight and blindness. Help fight blindness.

Act locally, help globally.

Local is where you live. You can find resources in your area. Here’s one where I live.

  1. Trees, Water, & People works in the developing world and in the United States to support communities in managing forest and water resources. Find out how many trees your donation can plant.

Traditional gifts.

If you’d like to buy a more traditional gift, consider buying from a Fair Trade organization. Fair Trade stores ensure that the products you buy were made by workers who are treated and paid well.

  1. Ten Thousand Villages. Ten Thousand Villages offers fairly traded handicrafts from the developing world. More than 300 fair trade and specialty shops in the United States carry Ten Thousand Villages products. There are stores in Old Town Square in Fort Collins and in Denver.
  2. SERVV offers fairly-traded, handmade goods, including apparel, food, and home décor. Find SERVV here.
  3. Donate to Local Non-Profits. You can find make a difference in your community regarding domestic violence, homelessness, hunger, aging, animal protection – you name it. In northern Colorado, make your own card or request that the group send a letter to your gift recipient. Some ideas: Crossroads Safehouse, the Homelessness Prevention Initiative, United Way of Larimer County, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Larimer Humane Society, Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity, or even our FRCC “Food for Thought” food bank.

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