I'm working on our Christmas list and whenever possible trying to come up with gifts that give twice. It would be nice for our purchases to be meaningful rather than desperate.
We renewed subscriptions to Ranger Rick Jr. for our nephews and niece which provides entertainment for them all year and also supports the National Wildlife Federation. We also ordered ornaments from St. Elizabeth School, a school for special needs children in Baltimore. Students in the Artisans program there make ornaments, trivets, and soaps. We are going to purchase our tree from the Solomons Fire Department again this year. The gift shops at the museum and the gallery have a nice selection. We're donating a Basket of Hope to Heifer International in honor of my office. And I'm considering that a bag of groceries delivered to our local food bank or a contribution to the fuel fund in someone's honor might be good gifts as well.
A word about charities. 'Tis the season for giving, but unfortunately not all charities are created equal. So I consult Charity Navigator to help figure out where my money will make a difference. The statistics I look at are Program Expenses (the percent of funds going directly to the program) and Compensation of Leaders (how much do they pay the CEO). For example, a charity we love is the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. The Charity Navigator profile shows that 88% goes to program expenses, and the President only makes $172,546 a year.
(Compare to, say, the Firefighters Charitable Foundation who use 7% of funds for program expenses, 87.7% for fundraising (!!!), and pay their $98,000 a year or 1.28%--that's nearly 1/5 of the funds going to programming. Deplorable!)
When in doubt, donate to the American Red Cross.