Annual Gift Guide 2008: Gifts to Give Back

See also Gifts You Buy and Gifts You Make.

As always, I'm going to urge everyone to support the Heifer Fund. Heifer is the most ingeniously-designed charity ever: Families in developing countries apply to the program, and are given a starter animal that is native to their area (unless the local stock has been depleted from in-breeding, in which case they get one of that animal but better stock) and training in best practices to care for that animal. Then they promise to give back the first offspring of that animal to another family in the community. That animal and any offspring after the first they use to feed their children and sell to make some extra income.

It helps families improve their lives without taking them out of their local cultures, allows them to help other members of their communities, and creates a network of animal husbandry experts in the same area who can work with each other.

When you donate to Heifer, you get to pick what you want to donate (the money technically goes into the general fund for one of the areas, but you donate enough for the cost of one animal or group) from a list of things like a cow, flocks of chicks, hives of bees, etc. It's an awesome gift, because it truly does become way more than the money you spend, and enables families to stay together, and at the same time the recipient in your life can imagine the animals. Check out the entire catalog here.

What else do you guys give to? Local groups? Other international groups? Are you doing any giving that doesn't involve money? Making things to donate?

Would you guys like to do some kind of service project here? I've been thinking about something like sending cards to US troops in Iraq, but wonder if that would bug readers who aren't American.