We've reached the chewy peppermint center of the holiday season, and you still haven't gotten gifts for those last few people on your list. Don't worry! The solution might be as easy as sending a donation in their name to a kickass charity, and we've got your guide on how to do it.
Image via Dragana Gerasimoski/Shutterstock.
Charities that Fight Disease
Charities That Take a Stand
For the politically minded pro choice lady who has everything, consider donating to EMILY's List, an organization that works to support the election of pro-choice female politicians. They've supported the campaigns of the likes of Claire McCaskill, Jeanne Shaheen, Tammy Baldwin, Hillary Clinton, and Jackie Speier. Next year's election is going to be a biggie, especially for the crop of women running for Senate, and pro-choice lady pols can always use the support.
Other political types might appreciate a donation to the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization that works in the court system to defend the rights of individuals. Or, for a group that thinks globally, Human Rights Watch.
A charitable gift to the Union of Concerned Scientists promotes research into environment and global warming issues (unofficial motto: "Oh my god you guys quit saying Global Warming is a theory! I'm a fucking scientist and it is NOT!")
Charities that Promote Women's Health
EnGender Health aims to improve reproductive and sexual health in countries like Bangladesh, Liberia, Ghana, India, and Nepal. They work to promote maternal health and access to safe contraception and provide fistula and postabortion treatment. According to their website, a donation of $50 is enough to get them 100 doses of misoprostol, a drug used to stop excessive bleeding after childbirth. The next $50,000 in donations will be matched, so if you donate, you're doubling your impact!
For those interested in contributing to women's health domestically, a group of Planned Parenthood donors has offered to match all donations to $250,000 to the end of the year. There's also NARAL, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the National Network of Abortion Funds.
Charities that Make People Happy
Best Buddies matches volunteers with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) is an organization that provides grief support services to people who have lost a loved one serving in the military. In addition to providing crisis intervention and psychological support to any and all people grieving the loss of a servicemember, they run a series of Good Grief camps for kids and teens who lose a parent or grandparent to war.
Team HELPS installs walter filtration systems and simple stoves in the huts of rural residents of Guatemala, since the traditional method of cooking in a Mayan home involves an extremely dangerous open fire pit that actually causes deadly respiratory diseases. Team Heifer raises money to help buy poor families livestock. The organization also trains rural families to sustainably farm in order to support themselves.
Charities that Make Animals Happy
Freedom Service Dogs is an organization that rescues shelter dogs, trains them, and matches them up with disabled people at no cost to them. Puppies Behind Bars introduces puppies to inmates in New York prisons. The inmates volunteer to train the dogs to be service animals or explosives detection dogs.
Best Friends Animal Society is a charity that owns a giant ranch in Utah that hosts hundreds of homeless animals— from survivors of Michael Vick's dogfighting ring to elderly horses to injured parakeets to a kitty whose eyes won't dilate properly. It's like the Island of Misfit Toys for animals. If you want to get really specific, you can donate money to support a specific animal while it waits to be adopted.
Charities that Need Your Junk
Donate those old glasses you'll never wear again to New Eyes For the Needy, an organization that recycles used eyeglasses and distributes them to people in need in the US and around the world.
If you've got an old fur coat hanging out in your closet freaking you out every time you open the door, consider donating it to a wildlife rehabilitation center. There, the furs will be used to comfort injured or orphaned animals while they're nursed into adulthood or back to health. According to the Humane Society's website, orphaned animals will treat the fur like a surrogate mother, cuddling with it and occasionally playing. (BRB, crying.) Here's a list of wildlife rehab centers that will take donated fur. Not advised: stealing someone's fur coat and donating it on their behalf.
Whether you've left the corporate world forever and are never coming back or you're just rehabbing your professional wardrobe, don't throw away your gently used business clothes; donate 'em to Dress for Success, an organization that gives women who can't afford a professional wardrobe the clothes they need to ace a job interview.
Check with local women's shelters; they often need feminine hygiene products and other toiletries like deodorant, mouthwash, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, etc. Women's shelters are also a great place for all those well-intentioned but ultimately useless to you Harvest Peach scented lotion gift baskets that your aunt from Arizona sent. Don't forget about the kids, either! According to a friend who has done work at women's shelters, kids there love coloring books and crayons. Microwavable popcorn is never not awesome.
Child's Play donates video games to hospitals so kids stuck there for extended periods of time can play games. The website's set up so you can see wish lists set up by local hospitals on a map, and respond to the list by sending a game.
Consider putting your name on the National Marrow Donor Program registry. Getting registered is easy peasy, and chances are your name won't ever be called, but if you've ever lost anyone to leukemia or lymphoma, or if you've been close to someone who has, you know that a bone marrow donation can change the entire universe of a family in need.
Crafty knitting aficionados might be interested in the Knit-A-Square charity, a group that collects knit items for African children orphaned by AIDS. Other organizations send cozy knit blankets to people deployed overseas, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, and premature babies.
And those old towels that kind of smell like they're always a little bit wet? Call your local animal shelter; they almost always need them.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of all worthy charities, hopefully it's a start. For extra guidance, check out Charity Navigator, a ratings system that lets you know how much of your donation to charity is going to its intended beneficiaries and how much is being invested in fancy Post Its.