Updated December 2016
Too many people do tit-for-tat giving at Christmas and 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 useful.
This is our rundown of charity gifts, including how much goes to good causes. For example, £13 vaccinates 100 kids in the developing world against polio or £10 buys Christmas dinner for a homeless young person.
In this guide
How does it work?
Not every charity sells charity gifts, but those organisations below that do all offer a customisable e-card or gift card that’ll tell the recipient what you've paid for on their behalf. Alternatively, 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.
What can you get?
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.
Save and change lives in communities around world
Types of gifts: Polio vaccines for 100 children for £13, deliver a baby for £29.50 (provides midwifery equipment and medicines for a safe birth), or help provide winter clothing for a Syrian child for £35.
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.
Link: Inspired Gifts
Helps provide care for patients with cancer
Types of gifts: An hour of care for £20, fund a Macmillan information centre for an hour for £30 or donate £5 for 14 copies of the cancer guide.
What does the charity get? 100% of what you give goes to the cause, but is not restricted to the gift chosen - so the money goes where it is needed most.
Link: Virtual gifts
Support village projects
Types of gifts: School supplies for £10, a pile of poo for £9 (fertiliser for crops), provide safe water for 10 people for £10 or give a goat to supply a family with milk for £25. 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, 82p goes on projects, 10p on running costs and 8p on fundraising.
You can also spend Nectar points on a range of Oxfam Unwrapped Gifts - see full details.
Link: Oxfam Unwrapped
Gifts that can save lives in developing world
Types of gifts: Buy four tree saplings for £12, five mosquito nets for £21, or an Essential Baby Kit, which includes a washbowl, nappies, towels, a wrap, soap and warm baby cap for £33.
What does the charity get? When you buy a gift, your money go towards projects within that theme, eg, education. For every £1 it gets, Save the Children spends 88p on its work to benefit children, 12p on fundraising and other costs.
Tackle the world's water crisis
Types of gifts: A mason to construct a family loo for £54, a bag of cement for a toilet base for £10, or a water hand pump for £37.
What does the charity get? For every £1 donated, Water Aid spends 76p on delivering services to those in need and 24p on fundraising.
Link: Charity gifts
Support women and children escaping domestic violence
Types of gifts: Refuge runs two types of promotions: A 'gift list' whereby donations are used to buy presents for women and children using its services this Christmas (such as a teddy bear for £10), and 'virtual gifts', like a Christmas dinner parcel for £5 or a Safety and Independence parcel including home safety installations, housing and welfare, help finding work and emotional support from the Refuge team. When you donate, you'll receive a thank you letter.
What does the charity get? Refuge is aiming to raise £41,000 this Christmas to provide support for all those using its services. Until that target is reached, every penny of your gift list donation goes directly to your chosen cause. Any funds left over will go towards the charity's running costs. For the refuge parcels, 79p out of every £1 donated goes directly to the charitable activity.
Help protect endangered species
Types of gifts: Adopt one of a range of animals, including elephants, 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
Help support the homeless
Types of gifts: Buy a homeless young person a Christmas dinner for £10, a Christmas gift for £13, a set of toiletries for £5, or a safe, comfy bed for the night for £30.
What does the charity get? 77p of every pound raised is used to continue Centrepoint’s work to support homeless young people and the remaining 23p is used to cover admin and support costs.
Link: More Than A Gift
Transform the lives of those living in poverty
Types of gifts: School books and stationery for a child for £9, a day's worth of food for a Syrian refugee for £9, or a safe place to sleep for £20.
What does the charity get? For every £1 donated, 85p is spent on direct charitable work, 15p on fundraising and on running the charity. Cash from gifts goes to projects within the relevant sector, eg, agriculture and livestock.
Link: Present Aid
Help look after our national heritage and landscape
Types of gifts: Guard two-feet of our coastline for a year for £20, plant 'tomorrow's ancient trees' for £250 or save the red squirrel from extinction for £10. You won't get a customisable e-card from National Trust, but you will receive a card and gift certificate for you to add your own personal greeting.
What does the charity get? According to the National Trust, every penny of your donation goes directly to the cause.
Link: Virtual Gifts
Help those in the developing world
Types of gifts: Fund a tailoring business in the developing world for £9, an hour's respite for parents of disabled kids for £15, a drought survival kit for £28 and provide de-worming tablets for 1,000 children for £50.
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
Improving health and preventing disability
Types of gifts: A home garden to feed a family for £25 and restoring a person's sight, hearing or mobility for £40. Gift tokens come with a gift wallet, artist-designed tea towel or cotton bag and newsletter.
What does the charity get? For every £1 donated, 91p goes directly to the chosen project, 7p goes towards generating more income and 2p is spent on support costs.
Link: Impact Gift Tokens
Teach vital life skills and support new mothers
Types of gifts: Catholic aid agency CAFOD's gifts include an emergency food package for a refugee family for £10, reading lessons for £10, a healthy mum and baby medical package for £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, 87p is spent on international emergency and development work, and 13p on fundraising and work management. Donations go towards funding projects in that gift's category (education and skills training; livestock, agriculture and livelihoods; water &food; health and care; and emergency, conflict and rehabilitation) rather than a specific gift.
Link: World Gifts
Give blood for free
Not so much donating a gift on behalf of someone you know, but an invaluable gift for someone you don't. For full info, click the relevant country's link: England & N. Wales, the rest of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Feed the starving
Click on a host of charity websites, and sponsors donate on your behalf to those in need. On the original click'n'give Hunger Site, more than 690,000 cups of food have been donated in December alone.
Find a local food bank
Check local authority or council websites and social media pages to see if local charities are accepting donations. Many supermarkets also have large baskets near the checkouts for you to drop in extra food. For more info on what and how to give to a food bank, read our full guide.