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Before you suit up for the chaos that is BLACK FRIDAY, CYBER MONDAY, or whatever, you need to pause and consider:

Every dollar you spend is a vote.

There’s fair-trade, and cause-driven philanthropic brands that give a portion of their profits toward charity, but aside from consciously buying products from locally-sourced small business owners, I feel overwhelmed when it comes to tackling my Target shopping list. Am I contributing to a greater good when I buy brand-name Scotch tape, or is my patronage somehow supporting child labor in Vietnamese sweatshops?

This holiday season, I’m encouraging my friends and family to think about where their dollars are going when they buy sparkly gift-sets from the mall or marked-down festive fleece from the local chain retailer. But let’s be honest, it’s not easy. It’s expensive and inconvenient, most of the time. ‘Tis truly better to give than to receive, and in the spirit of giving this holiday season, I’ve done my research to save you some time when you start making your list and checking it twice. Your money makes an impact in the world no matter how you spend it, so make it a positive one and help fundraise important charities and non-profits that work to make the world a better place. Not only will you be fundraising, but your recipient will get to become an ambassador for that cause and raise awareness just by carrying, wearing, using, or sharing whatever you give them.

Read more for my do-good gift guide, and earn your spot on the “NICE” list for next year.

1. FEED

Founded by Lauren Bush Lauren (she married into the Lauren family, as in Ralph Lauren, and her wedding pictures are BANANAS).

Every one of their products has a number stamped on it that signifies the amount of meals or micronutrient packets provided with its purchase, so you immediately feel more connected and responsible for participating in the FEED mission.

WHAT TO BUY: The Shopper Tote $35 (Feeds 15 Children)

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WHO TO BUY FOR:
Its unisex minimalist and utilitarian design makes it an ideal and practical gift for anyone on your list who could use a universal tote bag for groceries, school supplies, or organization, etc. But I love this for your Mom, Brother, Sister, BFF, Co-Worker, Teacher.

2. Stella and Bow

Jewelry made by LA Natives and BFFs Lauren Brokaw and Lindsey Lerman. All (100%) proceeds from the “Puppy Luv” line go to the Love Leo Rescue, a small non-profit dog rescue group that pulls the broken, forgotten, abused, and at-risk dogs from shelters and networks those in need with potential families to adopt or reputable rescue groups to assist the needy.

WHAT TO BUY: Lassie Necklace $60

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WHO TO BUY FOR: The animal-loving girl in your life, or your Mom, Girlfriend, Sister, BFF. The great thing about this piece is that its so tiny and delicate, it looks good with everything and on everyone.

3. Bravelets

Bravelets is another jewelry company, and I know this list will start to get repetitive with all the different accessory companies that donate to non-profits, but it really is a great vehicle for awareness, story-telling, and giving. This company donates $10 from every purchase to the cause associated with the product you buy. I’m choosing Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, but there are many styles and causes to choose from, even some masculine designs, in the case you have a dude in your life who will wear a friendship bracelet for a good cause!

WHAT TO BUY: Original Rope Bracelet $35

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WHO TO BUY FOR: We all know someone touched whose been affected by a life-threatening disease or situation, but I would give these to Mom, Grandma, Aunt, MIL, Sister, BFF. Anyone with a heart would appreciate the cause behind the bracelet and wear with pride.

4. TOMS

An all-around do-good company that started with shoes, TOMS now provides sight, safe births, water, and bullying prevention to people in need.

WHAT TO BUY: Blue Wool Men’s Slippers $49

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WHO TO BUY FOR: Your Dad, Grandpa, FIL, Brother. But don’t stop there, check out the apparel, products, and accessories for the whole gang, ladies especially!

5. Animal Rescue Site at GreaterGood

GreaterGood began in 1999 to provide support for worthy causes through easy, online actions. Since its launch, GreaterGood has contributed more than $30 million to charities around the world. There is so much stuff on this site, the easiest way is to navigate by selecting the type of charity you want to fund at the top of the page, and then using the side navigation bar to narrow down who you’re shopping for. Since men are the most difficult to shop for on my list, I’m going to try and find something that benefits animals and would be a practical and useful gift for some of the harder men to shop for in my family. (Every item description on the website tells you how many bowls of food your purchase will provide. Cool, huh?)

WHAT TO BUY: Perfectly Paired: Shelter Dogs for Veterans $25- $200

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WHO TO BUY FOR: ANYONE. Depending on how much you’d like to donate, you can provide toys, food or treats for a shelter dog or pay for veterinary care or a veteran’s adoption fee. What better way to give back to our servicemen who have put their lives on the line to protect our country? And, BONUS, you’ll be helping a homeless shelter dog find a forever home. Professional animal trainers rehabilitate the dogs, which are otherwise facing euthanasia, and teach them good manners to fit into the veteran’s lifestyle. Training can also include sensitization to wheel chairs or crutches, as well as recognizing panic or anxiety disorder behaviors. This is truly a gift that gives, and guaranteed to make everyone feel good in this transaction. If you’d rather have something for them to unwrap, I suggest hiding this gift in a really goofy mug or the pocket of a dog reindeer hoodie.

6. 31 Bits

31 Bits created a concept to improve the conditions of women in Uganda and fight systemic poverty. 31 Bits offers these women a  holistic series of educational programs, care, and financial support while connecting artisans in Uganda to an international market so they can provide for themselves and their family. The jewelry is beautifully handmade using 100% recycled paper and other local materials, so you’re gifting, wearing, and enjoying an eco-friendly and charitable piece of handmade art.

WHAT TO BUY: The Creative Beaded Bracelet $12

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WHO TO BUY FOR: For $12, you can stuff a lot of stockings with these pretty little things.  They have a kids’ line that averages about $10 a piece, reminding me you’re never too young to start thinking stylishly and philanthropically. Girls, Nieces, Cousins, Friends’ Kids, Coworkers, MIL, Aunts, BFF would be thrilled to receive these pieces!

7. Purpose

Seldom do you find a brand that donates ALL proceeds to charity like Purpose. Purpose jewelry is handcrafted by survivors of modern-day slavery, and 100% of the proceeds benefit International Sanctuary, a non-profit that provides holistic care for young women rescued from sex trafficking.

WHAT TO BUY: Chic Gift Set $44

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WHO TO BUY FOR: Not too flashy, not too minimal, this set is a great pick for gifting a family member or a significant other who appreciates wearing handcrafted pieces of art that benefit an amazing cause. I ended up buying two different bracelets for some of the special ladies in my life and was thrilled to receive them in the mail because the quality is stunning, they are beautifully made, and they give my wrist a delicate little sparkle without stealing the show (I had to try them on, doesn’t everyone?), PLUS they are tagged with the handwritten name of the survivor who made them, which I found super special. Give it to your Mom, Sister, Girlfriend, Daughter, BFF. 

8. Ten Thousand Villages

Ten Thousand Villages is an established retail location, and with 390 stores all over the country, you are not far from purchasing a handmade gift from one of tens of thousands disadvantaged artisans from countries like Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Product sales help pay for food, education, healthcare and housing for craftspeople who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed.

WHAT TO BUY: Kitty Clean Doormat $39

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WHO TO BUY FOR: I tried to hunt for a good guy-gift, since this is such a big store. The cat lover or cat owner on your list would enjoy this doormat, but I’m thinking my Dad might really dig this, only because he feeds the neighborhood cats and would never be the kind of bro to buy a cat-shaped doormat. The Boyfriend would also get a kick out of this since he is a cat person.

9. The Gentle Barn

I have to have The Gentle Barn on my list because it’s such an important organization and sanctuary for abused and neglected farm animals. It’s a place for healing and safety–and not just for the animals.

At The Gentle Barn, we work with children from the inner-city, group homes, mental health care facilities, foster homes, and schools to teach them that even though we are all different on the outside, on the inside we are all the same and are deserving of the same rights, respects and freedom. 

 We can’t do this work without you and are grateful for your support. Enjoy the website and check back with us from time to time to see what’s new. The best way to help is by making a donation, sponsoring an animal or sponsoring a group of school kids, at-risk kids or special-needs kids to come to The Gentle Barn.

WHAT TO BUY: Sponsor a goat for a year $120

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WHO TO BUY FOR: Have you ever wondered what to buy The Girl or Boy Who Has Everything? Every single animal at the Barn has their own story of being rescued from traumatic conditions and rehabilitated to deliver compassion, healing, and happiness to people who come to visit. For $10 a month, you can sponsor any one of these sweet precious creatures, and if you’re in the area, you can visit the barn and meet your sponsored goat in person! Oh, the tears will flow, no doubt. I can’t imagine anything more rewarding for the giver or recipient than to be able to look into the eyes of any one of these animals, scratch their chin, feed them from your palm, and know that I’ve somehow contributed to their survival and well-being.

10. silhouPETtes

This company I found on accident, but I’m sure glad I did. On top of giving back 30% of their profits to animal rescue, silhouPETtes makes the best custom pet charms. They’re not cheap, but having my sweet fur-baby close to my heart forever is pretty priceless.

WHAT TO BUY: Custom Charm Necklace Starts at $189

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WHO TO BUY FOR:  Girlfriend, Mom, Wife, Wife-To-Be, or Very Special Friend Who LOVES Her Pet Named Alexis 

 Honorable Mention:

Krazy Straws $4.99

My BFF got me a straw that spelled out my name for Christmas and I think it’s the neatest thing. It really puts the “fun” in FUNCTIONAL, you know what I mean? And because it’s a small family-owned business, you can feel good about giving someone a personalized Krazy Straw.

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