10 Last-Minute Gift Ideas That Can Help Make The World A Better Place

How you can put your money toward more than just more stuff—and nudge your friends and family in the right direction, too.

10 Last-Minute Gift Ideas That Can Help Make The World A Better Place
Inside the Charity: water Offices [Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

If ever there was a year to give back, this is it. As 2016 comes to a close, so many communities the world over have found themselves increasingly marginalized and disenfranchised. Idle slacktivisim won’t cut it. Here are a few ways you can put your money where your tweets are:

A young Syrian family finds relief in a large, breezy tent at the Diavata camp in Thessaloniki, Greece, where temperatures often exceed 100 degrees.[Photo: Jessica Dimmock]

1. International Rescue Committee: You could, of course, donate to the IRC the usual way. But a more meaningful contribution might be to give a rescue gift. For a little over $50, you could cover the costs of a year of schooling for a girl in Afghanistan or pay for four temporary shelters to help house families in refugee camps.

2. DonorsChoose: As a crowdfunding platform dedicated to education, DonorsChoose lets public school teachers across the U.S. raise money for classroom supplies and other student needs. Choose from thousands of classroom projects and help one—or a few—come to fruition.

Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant[Photo: Nichole Washington for Fast Company]

3. Coding nonprofits: As not-for-profit organizations that focus on empowering black, Latino, and female workers in the tech sector, Code2040, Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code are always seeking donations. Another way to help out, albeit free of cost: volunteer to lead curriculum, teach workshops, conduct mock interviews, review resumes, and more.

4. Charity: water: The clean water nonprofit has a selection of branded gifts in its online store, the proceeds of which go toward Charity: water’s operating costs. If you’d rather put your money directly toward well building, you can donate and track how every dollar you give is spent via Charity: water’s map of completed projects—or start your own fundraising campaign to raise money for the organization.

Nobel Peace Prize–winning education activist Malala Yousafzai[Photo: Samantha Casolari]

5. Malala Fund: As with Charity: water, the Malala Fund gives you the option of fundraising on your own, donating, or making a tribute gift to champion girls in Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya—as well as Syrian refugees—and help them get the secondary education they deserve. (Also worth checking out: Pencils of Promise.)


6. Crisis Text Line: A free 24-hour hotline largely for troubled teens and young adults, Crisis Text Line offers counsel via text. Donate to the cause or, better yet, apply to become a crisis counselor yourself.

Sama Group founder and CEO Leila Janah brings a Silicon Valley–style mentality to poverty relief.[Photo: Chloe Aftel]

7. LXMI: Founded by Sama Group founder and CEO Leila Janah, LXMI is a for-profit skin care line that employs poor African women to grow and process the natural ingredients in its products in exchange for at least three times the local wages. Part of the proceeds from LXMI’s sales go toward the Sama Group, which pairs communities in poverty with digital work opportunities.

8. Watsi: This is a crowdfunding platform in the same vein as DonorsChoose, but for medical procedures. Watsi connects donors with patients who can’t afford to pay for, say, a surgery they need. And by giving friends and family a Watsi gift card, you can encourage them to support a patient of their choice.

9. Led by Mark Zuckerberg and other tech industry heavyweights, continues to push for comprehensive immigrant reform. Donate, or join your local chapter and volunteer for events.

Change agent: “These issues impact all of us,” says Rashad Robinson. “Not just black people.”[Photo: Gus Powell]

10. Color of Change: If, like many others did after the election, you’ve already donated to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, you might turn your attention to online racial justice organization Color of Change. If you want to go beyond just donating, you can sign up to lead your own digital campaign on issues impacting the black community. (Another organization doing great civil rights advocacy work, particularly when it comes to hate speech and intolerance in the aftermath of the election, is the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

About the author

Pavithra Mohan is a staff writer for Fast Company.