Remembering Those Who Truly Need a Holiday Gift

Only great souls know the grandeur there is in charity.” – Jacques BeNigne Bossuet

This holiday season, Americans will spend nearly $500 billion dollars on holiday gifts. This past weekend alone, Americans spent $52.4 billion dollars on holiday shopping.

The money will be spent on electronics, clothes, books, toys, vacations, jewelry, gift cards, video games, DVD’s, CD’s, and cookware. Some gifts will meet legitimate needs (for example, my son will open some new clothes this holiday season). But let’s face it, most gifts will try to satisfy wants: a new Barbie for your daughter, the newest video game for your son, or a K-cup coffee maker for your mother-in-law. Worse yet, many holiday shoppers will spend hours trying to find just the right gift for the “guy who already has everything.”

Meanwhile, there are countless charitable organizations all over this country meeting very real needs of people that will go without holiday gifts. These charitable organizations are providing food and shelter to those without any. They are protecting battered women. They are offering educational assistance to those who most need it. They are offering new opportunities at life for those who have had it taken it from them. And they are counting on year-end giving to keep their doors open for another year.

In short, they are not providing wants. They are meeting needs.

I’m not against giving gifts. In fact, I think that a well-thought-out, timely gift can communicate love and appreciation to a loved one. But I am against foolishly spending all of my holiday spending on those who already have much… when there are so many in desperate need.

Consider just a sampling of some local charitable organizations and the work they are doing to meet the needs of very real people…

  1. Bicycles for Humanity – Bicycles for Humanity enables people to raise funds and collect unwanted bicycles to send to reliable partners in developing countries.
  2. Blind Babies Foundation – When an infant or preschooler is identified as blind or visually impaired, Blind Babies Foundation provides family-centered services to support the child’s optimal development and access to the world.
  3. Brain Injury Adventure Camp – The Brain Injury Adventure Camp, Inc. (BIAC) is an organization that provides activities and education to persons suffering from a traumatic brain injury.
  4. Bridge Family Center – The Bridge Family Center in West Hartford, CT provides counseling, temporary shelter, life-skills training, positive youth development programs, parent education, community services, and prevention and intervention programs to homeless teens and troubled families.
  5. City Harvest – City Harvest collects excess food from all segments of the food industry, including restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers, and farms. This food is then delivered free of charge to community food programs throughout New York City using a fleet of trucks and bikes as well as volunteers on foot.
  6. Comfort Cafe– The Comfort Cafe is a not-for-profit gourmet restaurant that offers gluten free, vegan, and other dishes, using local, fresh, organic ingredients – on a pay-as-you-can basis – allowing people of all social classes to enjoy food, community, and comfort.
  7. COMPASS – COMPASS is an inner-city organization located in Omaha, Nebraska that exists to develop warm and caring relationships, through programs that help meet the academic, social, and spiritual needs faced by those we serve.
  8. The Connection – The Connection Youth Services provides help to teens and families in crisis in Howell, MI.
  9. Dare to Dream Children’s Foundation – Dare to Dream recruits and trains volunteers to educate, inspire, and mentor wounded youth in group homes, shelters, orphanages, and detention centers in Dallas, TX.
  10. Days For Girls – Days for Girls International works to get washable feminine hygiene kits into the hands of those that would otherwise go without allowing them to attend school, work, etc.
  11. Eat Art – Eat Art is an eclectic collection of photographers, painters & designers committed to artfully ending hunger. When you purchase any art or apparel, meals are sent to hungry children around the world. You get the art. The kids get to eat.
  12. Essex CHIPS – At Essex CHIPS, youth work in collaboration with adults to deliver youth programming, parent education, substance abuse prevention campaigns and direct local healthy living initiatives for local teens in their community.
  13. Esther’s Daughters – Esther’s Daughters purpose is to give little girls in the poorest country in the western hemisphere an alternative to prostitution for survival. They provide food, shelter, clothing, education, a place to heal their hearts from all the brokeness and trauma they have been through.
  14. Feed the Need – Feed the Need is a volunteer organization dedicated to promoting education and awareness of local hunger issues by sponsoring physical activities and events.
  15. Girls Think Tank – Girls Think Tank inspires, empowers and organizes its community in San Diego to advance basic human dignity through activism and advocacy.
  16. Growing Home – Growing Home’s mission is to operate, promote, and demonstrate the use of organic agriculture as a vehicle for job training, employment, and community development.
  17. Hoops for Hope – Started by middle-school student, Austin Gutwein, Hoops of Hope is the world’s largest free-throw marathon. Similar to a walk-a-thon, participants raise awareness and funds for children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS by shooting free throws.
  18. Hope Now Adoption Fund – The Hope Now Adoption Fund offers hope to families wanting to adopt, but are hindered by the financial costs.
  19. The Hunger Task Force – Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee, WI believes that every person has a right to adequate food obtained with dignity. Hunger Task Force works to prevent hunger and malnutrition by providing food to people in need today and by promoting social policies to achieve a hunger free community tomorrow.
  20. Inca Link – Inca Link works in Ecuador and Peru to establish Day Care Centers, orphanages, and pregnant teen homes for the inhabitants of third-world city garbage dumps.
  21. Living Yoga – Living Yoga is an outreach program teaching yoga as a tool for personal change to disadvantaged individuals in prisons, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, and transitional facilities in Portland, OR.
  22. Maggie’s Place – Maggie’s Place is a community that provides houses of hospitality for expectant women in Phoenix, AZ who wish to achieve their goals in a dignified atmosphere.
  23. Mary House – Mary House is a community based organization that provides transitional housing services, shelter and support programs to homeless and struggling families, while providing a safe haven that allows families to reclaim their dignity.
  24. Meals on Wheels – Meals on Wheels provides home-delivered meal services to people in need. With chapters all throughout America, there is likely a local chapter in your community.
  25. Nebraska Children’s Home Society – Nebraska Children’s Home Society provides safe and loving care to children of all ages throughout the state of Nebraska.
  26. New Beginning Center – The mission of New Beginning Center is to foster an environment of safety, support and respect for families affected by domestic violence.
  27. Open Door Mission – Open Door Mission provides men, women and children in Omaha living in poverty with safe shelter beds, nutritious meals daily, and preventive measures.
  28. Pencils of Promise – Pencils of Promise builds schools in the developing world and trains socially conscious young leaders to take action at home and abroad.
  29. Plant with Purpose – Plant With Purpose reverses deforestation and poverty around the world by transforming the lives of the rural poor.
  30. Rocky Mt Children’s Law Center – The mission of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center is to protect and save the lives of abused and neglected children through zealous legal advocacy, innovative programs and public policy reform.
  31. Sarah’s Circle – Sarah’s Circle’s serves the women in Chicago Uptown’s community who are homeless or in need of a safe space by offering comprehensive physical services, permanent supportive housing, clinical services, a network of resources, and community.
  32. Second Harvest Food Bank – Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara serves an area stretching from South San Francisco to Gilroy and from the ocean to the bay helping ensure that those who need food have access to it.
  33. Slam Diabetes – Slam Diabetes’ mission is to help kids with type 1 diabetes and their families deal with this unrelenting disease through empowered living: better glucose management, exercise, diet and education and by raising funds for scholarships, grants and sponsorships for kids and their family members to attend camps and conferences created to help them develop skills and practices.
  34. Spectrum Youth and Family Services – Spectrum empowers teenagers, young adults, people with a history of violence, and their families in Burlington and throughout Vermont to make and sustain positive changes through prevention, intervention, and life skills services.
  35. Sunny Hills Services – The mission of Sunny Hills Services is to engage vulnerable children and youth, enrich their connection with family and community and empower them to lead healthy, rewarding lives.
  36. Susan G. Komen Foundation – As the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists, the Foundation works together to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures.
  37. Warren Village – Warren Village is a unique family community helping motivated low-income, previously homeless single-parent families move from public assistance to personal and economic self-sufficiency through subsidized housing, on-site nationally accredited child care, advocacy/case management, educational guidance and career development.
  38. Women’s Bean Project – The Women’s Bean Project transforms the lives of women by teaching job readiness and life skills for entry-level jobs through employment in our gourmet food production and handmade jewelry manufacturing businesses.
  39. Women of the Americas Sustainability Initiative – WASI is an action-oriented alliance of women leaders who construct, educate, organize, and advocate for strong and empowered communities through ecological design-build practices, with the aim of creating a socially and ecologically resilient world.
  40. Your Local Charity. – Dedicated to meeting the needs of real people in your local community.
Whatever you choose to give this holiday season, don’t forget to give a financial gift to those who really need it.
Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    What a great list! I’ll definitely be sharing! Since you’re in the Phoenix area now, I’ll suggest a few others: UMOM, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, Ronald McDonald House, AZ Humane Society, Child Crisis Center, AZ Animal Welfare League, Sojourner Center…just to name a few. I’ve either been involved or donated to pretty much all of the above and can personally vouch for what great local organizations they are.

    And Maggie’s Place is simply amazing!!

  2. says

    Wow! Great list – thanks for putting this together. So many great options to help out those less fortunate this holiday season. Just imagine the good that $52.4 billion could do on stuff that really matters.

  3. says

    Bravo to you, Josh for this timely and marvelous post. Please read my pre-Thanksgiving post: It’s about how corporations like Walmart step up to the bar and do their share as well. In part it reads,

    “Here’s the math … according to Walmart’s corporate page this very day, Walmart has 9,826 stores in 28 countries around the world. Walmart contributes multiple times each week to the food bank, but just for a minute, let’s say that the ton we picked up today represents Walmart’s weekly contribution. If every Walmart in the world contributed one ton of food each week, Walmart contributes 19,652,000 pounds of food to hungry, needy people each week, the equivalent of half-a-million tons of food a year!”

    It is indeed a time for giving and sharing. Bravo to you and to everyone else who refuses to pass the buck.

  4. Tiffany says

    Love this post. As I get older (and hopefully wiser), the traditional Christmas seems more and more foreign to me. I don’t want anything other than to spend time with family and friends!

    This year I am SO happy that my husband’s family has decided to exchange no gifts. We’ve decided to use the money we would have spent on those gifts to buy presents for people in a local nursing facility (our church has a list of residents and their wants/needs). It is such a rewarding way to celebrate Christmas. I’m working on getting my family to cut out the gifts as well…but they’re not as receptive!

  5. says

    Last night I saw a report on families living in their cars because it was the only thing they had left. One 15 year old girl who was interviewed was grateful for the truck she lived in. For being able to have the opportunity to go to school after she cleaned up for the morning in a gas station bathroom. The report just before it? Americans hit a record high spending for Black Friday. It saddened me. There is something seriously wrong.

    Mahalo for the list. I will certainly share it. This year, especially after getting rid of most o my things and moving to Hawaii I’m struck by what we need and what we want. And I really struck by how much good goes around to everyone by giving and be conscious of needs of others.

  6. says

    Thanks for putting together such a good post. I gave up giving or getting gifts many years ago — long before I started my minimalist blog — but when the spirit moves me, I make donations instead of gifts.

    One of my favorite charities is Bat World Sanctuary ( in Mineral Wells, Texas and other places. You can adopt an injured bat and allow your recipient to keep up with its progress. If you don’t know what bats do for the world, visit this site.

    Mentioning them here is my gift to them and to you this year.


  7. says

    This year, my partner and I are in a much better place financially, and it’s been truly a delight to plan our holiday shopping for people we don’t even know! A local organization called The Aliveness Project ( provides care for individuals and families dealing with HIV/AIDS. We volunteered to make a holiday basket for a couple, and it’s been a joy to think that we’re providing so much for them that they need.

    And not only do I get to give back some of my financial wealth, I also get to give some of myself, as well. They both asked for warm clothes, so I’ve been handknitting each of them a scarf and a pair of mittens. (And up here in Minnesota, those are absolutely not a luxury.)

    • says

      I’ve been involved with some HIV/AIDS charities in the past, and that’s very rewarding work. I think direct-care organizations are the best place to donate to human needs because you can see for yourself the good that your donations do.

  8. says

    Awesome list of possible places to share with! This weekend, we will be helping with a program where underprivileged and at-risk youth are partnered with a person in uniform and given a $100 gift card to buy for their families and/or for themselves. It is called Shop with a Hero and we LOVE it. Our whole church gets involved, not only by giving financially, but by coming out and serving these kids and their families.
    I will also check out your list above, I am sure I can find a cause that tugs at my heart!
    6 things happy people do (and you should too!)

  9. Jessica says

    Definitely consider donating to your local animal shelter or a clinic that performs affordable spaying and neutering!

    Donating to an animal organization would be a hugely welcomed gift for an animal lover.

    • Kelley says

      So true! Whenever someone asks me what I want for Christmas or B-day, I say a donation to Best Friends Animal Society or the local animal shelter. That is the best gift!

  10. says

    Wow. Thank you for this informative and extensive list of options for this holiday season. Really touches me that So many amazing people are out there trying to help people and our planet. Your word are very encouraging as well. Will be passing your post along to as many people as i can reach! Great post and thanks so much.

  11. says

    Love this post. We have a two year old and finding ways to celebrate and give…and conveying to generous friends and relatives that they need not spoil our child, without sounding like we want to “cancel Christmas” has been tricky. Your post does a good job of summing up what I’ve been feeling, without coming off sounding too grumpy or judgmental.

  12. says

    Thank you so much for your wonderful list!

    I hunger to find a way to celebrate a minimalist Christmas while still creating a lush celebration and honoring each of my friends and family members. It’s hard to break away from tradition. Maybe shifting my focus from feeding wants to feeding needs is a first step toward reforging Christmas.

  13. Miranda says

    Love the list, thanks for sharing. We’ve pretty much gone “no gifts” for Christmas, but there are some close friends and a few family members that I’d like to give something. I love the eat art page, I’ll be buying several photos!

  14. says

    I love this. I hate all the consumerism around the holidays. I still boycott shopping anywhere near “black” Friday. This year I have decided to hand make all my gifts and I may have to give some of these organizations a call. Thanks for doing the leg work for me! :)

  15. Pat says

    good ideas. Only people that are going to get money for gifts are my college age daughter and son. We’ve spent so much money supporting her at college, I can’t stand the thought of giving her anymore for Christmas. Also gave my son’s baby-mama and thier baby a ticket to visit him/us during the holidays. Plus neither one of my kids really appreciate anything we give them. It takes away from the joy of giving when people don’t really care, or expect it. So yes, giving to something else (i love giving to Toys for Tots) would be an cool option. Just don’t know what the hubby would think.

  16. says

    I was so excited when I read this article. This is exactly what my wife and I have been working on and the reason behind There are so many great organizations that are supporting and making a difference in real people’s lives. Last Christmas we were wanting our shopping to make a difference and support charity. We found so many great organizations selling products to support their causes, however, the ease in shopping for these products was not there. We realized that there needed to be a marketplace for charities to post their products and for shoppers to access these unique gifts. That’s exactly what we have been building ever since.

  17. says

    Great list! This idea works great for other events, like weddings and births. Just have a ‘charity registry’ instead of a regular registry. You can even make an amazon registry and only add charities — just use the universal registry button.

  18. says

    I’d just like to toss in that even if somebody doesn’t have money to make a donation, fifteen minutes of calling local churches will usually yield contacts for a number of charities that need people to hand out food, ring bells, make deliveries, put up posters, and a dozen other misc. little things that make their charity work.

    This isn’t just during the holiday season – people are needed all year!

  19. says

    An excellent post. I just wanted to toss another link into the pile that I found recently: http://www.52×

    It just started up recently and it has a pretty simple concept: everyone pledges to donate a certain amount of money each week for an entire year. Each week the website features a charity.

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