Give/Receive a Hybrid Gift this Season: a present & a charitable contribution

Nothing makes you feel as good as doing good. What could be a better time of year to experience this and share the idea with others.

The impetus for this blog came to us in an email asking for donations to underserved children in New York City by purchasing holiday gifts for up to $30. A spreadsheet was attached with the gift requests, the child’s age, favorite color and so on.

Pretty easy, right?

It stirred up our philanthropic and creative juices. We like to give gifts, at least one of us does, so we came up with a hybrid gift idea: a small present plus a charitable contribution in someone’s name. Think hybrid cars, animals, plants and offices at home and in the corporate sector. 

Look at it this way. We all want or hope to leave the world a better place. A hybrid holiday gift is one, albeit a very small way, to move in that direction. This is an extraordinary opportunity for our huge baby-boomer population of some 73 million, according to a 2020 Census, to effect change and leave a better legacy, starting now.

As we’ve said in earlier blogs, a legacy isn’t about having a statue or structure built in your honor or name or even an epitaph written on your grave or an obit in the newspaper. It’s about making a difference in the here and now.

How do we go about this? Maybe you have a favorite cause or, just check your email inbox and multiple texts on your smart phone. We’ve all been inundated with pitches to give, give give…feed children and families, fund libraries and religious institutions, pet shelters, schools and hospitals and on and on. Maybe stop, read a few that you care about and take it from there. But also think about the recipient.

Caveat: Only donate to organizations you know or have checked out carefully on GuideStar, Charity Navigator, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, or other websites. There are many scammers looking to make a quick buck. And when you do donate to any organization, check out how much goes to help the constituents or clients and what percentage goes for administrative costs.

You have carte blanche as to where you donate based on what is dearest to your or the recipient’s heart. But we think it’s better to give to a charity you might already give to or would like versus one just on your list. For example, give to their house of worship or college or favorite area food bank rather than your preferences.

Then, if you feel like it or still have cash left, you might tuck a small gift into their hands or leave it in their mailbox or at their door—a good pen (hint, hint to write more checks for contributions), a book light, chocolates, homemade baked goods, stationery with their name, throw blanket, food basket of favorite snacks, jams and jellies, mustards and vinegars, pasta sauces with dried pasta and so much more. Some ways of giving have an intrinsic gift or return. If they don’t have a wreath, buy one for them. If they’re Jewish, another menorah is always welcome. Or consider a gift card to a favorite restaurant or gourmet food shop. Wine is nice for some, cider for others. The point is to take some time and think what they might enjoy. One of us only buys from local shops to help support them, which started long before Covid-19 and steers clear of big-box stores. Yes, they offer discounts, but the difference won’t make a difference in her budget but will help local folks.

This year, when someone in your family who is sitting around the holiday table casually asks, “Are you making money?” why not answer instead: “Are you making a difference?”  

Here are some suggestions, not places to give per se, but the kinds of places to which many can contribute:

Donate a Gift or Money in Someone’s Honor and add a small gift on the side

A toy drive at a religious organization or any non-profit. The email we received, as we said, had a list of the children, their age and gift ideas attached.

A children’s book sale at a local library or independent bookstore

Meals for hungry seniors or the homeless

Give to a pet shelter in a cat or dog lover's honor and maybe take home a new puppy or kitty

Christmas trees and ornaments, menorahs and candles

Blankets, sweaters, coats, mittens and socks for those who are in need during the cold winter months

Cultural, Religious & Medical Institutions that you care about; that’s your return

A church, synagogue/temple, a hospital, a religious organization by donating to a special fund such as clergy, a certain foundation or fund that may have meaning for the recipient, such as their musical program or outreach to residents in need.

Give to a medical cause such as cancer, Alzheimer’s or Lewy Body Disease

Give of Yourself and enjoy the gift of giving

Work serving food or prepare it for the homeless or seniors

Participate in a walk to raise funds for a cause

Bake to raise money for a sports team

Walk (or run) to raise money for veterans or for a specific disease

Create your Own Fund-Raising Ideas with a return:

A Hanukkah Menorah Lighting Day and sell latkes and jelly doughnuts with games of dreidel where the winners receive a small prize.

Christmas Ugly Sweater Contest a la Bridget Jones and serve eggnog and a variety of Christmas cookies. Sell the ugly sweaters and other warm garments to raise money for a specific cause. Participants vote for the ugliest sweater wearers who receive a first, second and third prize.

Raise the Bar! Drinks: Hot chocolate coffee bar to raise money for a public or private school at a sporting event on a cold winter’s day. Have a punch card…after five cups of either beverage, you get one free.

A Fitness Fest, Yoga or Tai Chi event with a fee to participate. All participants receive donated yoga mats. The funds raised will then go to a charity.

On Site Children’s Holiday Party at a children’s home or hospital ward. Make it a community effort. You organize it, decorate, bring the food and drinks, paper plates et al, come up with activities and games and invite the parents and staff or the community for a small fee. Ask for a toy donation that’s less than $20. The gift you will get are the laughs and similes on each child’s face. (One year a famous St. Louis football player, Kurt Warner came to a children’s group home for the holiday party and gave each child a laptop computer. It was pure joy.)

The possibilities are endless. Feel free to throw out your suggestions as your non-money holiday contribution to our blog. Write in your ideas below.

Keep in mind, ‘tis the season to do good and make the world a better place. No one is immortal, but helping others is one way to leave your mark behind. Who needs a building or another fancy wing?



  • Merri Rosenberg

    Love this, we’ve been doing this for years with many of our friends( financial , in-kind), and much more fitting for the season. Thanks for so many terrific ideas.

  • Phyllis Evan

    My daughter does this. Her holiday gift to everybody in the family is a donation to a cause close to their own hearts.

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