Updated December 2015
Too many people do tit-for-tat giving at Christmas, the usual result is unwanted tat. Instead, give a gift to charity in someone's name – then you know your money is actually paying for something that will be used.
This is our rundown of wonderful and weird charity gifts, including how much goes to good causes. For example, £12 vaccinates 100 kids in the developing world against polio or £5 buys Christmas dinner for a homeless person.
In this guide
How does it work?
All the organisations below offer a customisable e-card or gift card that’ll tell the recipient what you've paid for on their behalf, or you can just make a regular donation.
If you just want to give a direct donation to charity on somebody else's behalf, be sure to use Gift Aid. Read our Charity Giving article for the full lowdown.
Can't afford to donate?
What you can get
Virtual charity gifts are less wasteful than buying tat and are far closer to the Christmas spirit. From helping to save lives with vital vaccines, to buying livestock for villagers to help them become self-sufficient, your donation really could change lives for the better. Here's our pick of the top charity gifts out there.
Irrigation systems, mosquito nets and more
Types of gifts: A chicken for £5 or 10 chicks for £10, a pair of glasses for £4, a hearing aid for £33 or a cow for £100.
What does the charity get? For every pound donated, 88p goes towards Age International's work helping older people overseas and 12p goes on raising funds.
Teach vital life skills and support new mothers
Types of gifts: Catholic aid agency CAFOD's gifts include a meal for somebody living in poverty (£8), teach someone to read (£10), a healthy mum and baby medical package (£30) or a happy queen bee for £4 (brings more bees to a hive, giving more honey).
What does the charity get? For every £1 donated, 88p is spent on international emergency and development work, and 12p on fundraising and work management. Donations go towards funding projects in that gift's category (eg, livestock, agriculture and livelihoods).
Link: World Gifts
Support the homeless
Types of gifts: Buy a homeless young person a Christmas dinner for £5, a Christmas gift for £10, a set of toiletries for £15, or a safe, comfy bed for the night for £35.
What does the charity get? 85p of every pound raised is used to continue Centrepoint’s work to support homeless young people and the remaining 15p is used to cover admin and support costs.
Stationery, uniforms and more
Types of gifts: A year’s books, stationery and uniform for a child for £9, a chicken to help a family start a business for £4, or feed a family for a month for £25.
What does the charity get? For every £1 donated, 84p is spent on direct charitable work, 15p on fundraising and 1p on running the charity. Cash from gifts goes to projects within the relevant fund, eg, agriculture and livestock.
Link: Christian (Present) Aid
Help feed the hungry
Types of gifts: 50 bowls of rice to feed 50 hungry children for £5, a worm composting kit for African farmers for £8, adopt a vegetable for £15 (saves rare varieties from extinction) or a Christmas hamper for an elderly person for £25.
What does the charity get? Good Gifts guarantees that all of your money will go to exactly what you've bought. Instead of charging a handling fee as it used to, it now uses Gift Aid donations to keep the site running.
Link: Good Gifts
IMPACT Gift Tokens
Types of gifts: A home garden to feed a family (£25) and restoring a person's sight, hearing or mobility (£40). Gift tokens come with a gift wallet, seed sticks, canvas bag and newsletter.
What does the charity get? For every £1 donated, 92p goes directly to the chosen project, 6p goes towards generating more income and 2p is spent on support costs.
Link: Impact Gift Tokens
School supplies, health checks, livestock and a pile of poo!
Types of gifts: Health check for £6, school supplies for £8, a pile of poo for £9, fix a well for £22 or a goat for £25. While a pile of poo works as a great fertiliser for crops, goats can supply a family with milk to drink or sell as well as providing them with manure too. As with other livestock gifts, the goat gift also provides business training for the goat's new owners.
What does the charity get? Your donation will be spent on a related Oxfam project, for example, cash from water-themed gifts goes to one of its water and sanitation projects. For every £1 donated, 84p goes on projects, 8p on support costs and 8p on fundraising.
You can now also spend Nectar points on a range of Oxfam Unwrapped Gifts - see full details.
Want to donate to other survival gifts? Why not check out Good Gifts to donate 50 bowls of rice for £5, Centrepoint to give a homeless young person a Christmas Dinner or Christian Aid to feed a family for £25.
Link: Oxfam Unwrapped
Lifesaving Gifts (RNLI)
Types of gifts: The Royal National Lifeboat Institution's charity gifts include warm gloves for crews at £10, 20 litres of lifeboat fuel for £10, or specialised sea boots for £45.
What does the charity get? 10% of donations go towards support costs to keep the RNLI running. The RNLI uses money from the gift where the need is greatest.
Link: RNLI Lifesaving Gifts
Save the Children Wishlist
Types of gifts: Buy a Healthy Baby Hamper, which includes a washbowl, nappies, towels and a No Child Born To Die kit, with a measles vaccine and treatments for diarrhoea and pneumonia for £51.
What does the charity get? When you buy a gift, your money go towards projects within that theme, eg, education. For every pound it gets, Save the Children spends 88p on its work to benefit children, 11p on fundraising and 1p on other costs.
Link: Save the Children
Help save lives, eg, with polio vaccines
Types of gifts: Polio vaccines for 100 kids for £12 or deliver a baby for £27.50 (provides midwifery equipment and medicines for a safe birth).
Winter clothing for a Syrian child is £32 – when you buy this gift, the state matches your donation pound for pound.
What does the charity get? Your donation provides the gift selected and covers the gift card costs, order processing, etc. Occasionally, a substitute could be made based on need, such as measles vaccines instead of polio.
WWF Adopt An Animal
Types of gifts: Adopt one of a range of animals, including pandas, from £3/month and receive regular updates on your chosen species, plus a cuddly toy.
What does the charity get? For every £1 donated, 57p is used directly for conservation work and campaigns, 26p for fundraising, 12p for communicating and influencing, 3p on gifts in kind and 2p on running costs.
Link: Adopt An Animal
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