- November 30, 2011
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The idea of “paying it forward” was most famously coined by Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Benjamin Webb in 1784. Nowadays, we use the phrase “pay it forward” or refer to these kinds of gifts as “alternative giving” or “charitable gifts.”
While “alternative giving” typically refers to making a donation to charity as a gift, we’re going to stretch that definition and talk about all the alternative ways to give. If you want to give fresh, unexpected and meaningful gifts—whether for the holidays, birthdays or otherwise—try one of these ideas:
1. Give an experience or class.
2. Give fair-trade/handmade items.
3. Donate to a charity on the recipient’s behalf.
Donate to the recipient’s favorite cause or charity. And if you don’t know their favorite, here are some ideas:
- Whether an alpaca meadow, art supplies for school kids, or mosquito nets—Oxfam America Unwrapped has got it.
- Clean water from charity: water.
- Through Heifer.org, give livestock and training—and help end hunger and poverty.
- Plant a tree.
When you do give a charitable gift, be sure to look up the nonprofit on Charity Navigator, an independent charity review site (you want to be sure that gift is making an impact!).
4. Invest in the people you love.
Now, this may sound corny—but we promise Umair Haque’s article, “The best investment you can make”, is a poignant reminder of how and what to give. Though Haque’s article doesn’t address gift-giving, it does address the current state of our economics…and how making an investment of time and energy into our loved ones is the best kind of investment we can make. Now that is giving.
“…perhaps the safest investments of all are the human, social, and emotional ones. They’re what give human life texture, depth, resonance, and meaning.”
Still looking for gift ideas?
If you’re still looking for gifts to give, Uncommon Goods is an online marketplace that allows artists and designers to sell items. Some are handmade, all are uncommon. Bonus: the company is a B Corp. Some big organizations, like WWF and The Nature Conservancy have online gift shops, where part of the purchase price supports the org.