For my birthday a friend had a tree planted in my honor in my home state of Ohio. (A tad amusingly, the friend’s last name happens to be Sycamore, but be that as it may….) Her gift put a huge smile on my face and was doubly appreciated because the tree was planted as part of a reforestation program, so her present to me was a good thing for the planet, too.
Odds are high you’ll receive similar smiles and warm feelings by giving the gift of doing good in the names of clients, colleagues and other special someones for the holidays. It’s a lovely way to say “Thank you!” for their business and support this year. And, while charitable gifting is worth doing in and of itself, as a nice collateral benefit you’re building goodwill in the community as a lawyer who cares about more than the bottom line. Plus, with the clock ticking on the shopping season, think about this: Myriad organizations allow you to give in another’s name online, and a boatload will send an ecard announcing your gift to your honorees in lickety-split time. Here’s a sampling of the many click-to-give-good options.
On Behalf of Creatures Great and Small
Helping out our furry friends is a cause that, somehow, naturally, touches nearly everyone’s hearts. Through the Petfinder.com Foundation, you can donate to save a homeless pet and your recipients will receive a personalized holiday card announcing your gift. Donate $30 or more and they become a supporting member for 2012, so your gift keeps giving through the New Year, too. Or, if you’re more inclined toward the sea side, head to Oceana.org’s Marine Wildlife Adoption Center to symbolically adopt an octopus, dolphin, penguin, polar bear, seal, shark or killer whale in a client’s honor. Adoption gift packs with added treats like sea-creature cookie cutters and plush toys are also available. You can print out an adoption certificate for recipients or send an ecard.
Alternatively, how about protecting a huge but gentle endangered manatee? Gift adoptions from Save the Manatee Club cost $25 and include a color photo, biography and adoption certificate, along with a subscription to the e-newsletter Paddle Tales and a year’s membership in Save the Manatee Club. You can also gift to support plenty of other critters—from horses to bear cubs to elephants—at the Animal Rescue Site Store.
Going for the Green around the Globe
If you’d like to follow my friend’s example and have a tree planted in someone’s honor, through TreeGivers you can designate that it be done on public lands in any U.S. state or Canadian province (for a mere $29.95). Your recipient gets an official certificate of planting and, of course, a happy holidays card with your personal message. For other reforestation dedications, try TreePeople (although it currently doesn’t offer an ecard option). Or go “fruitier”—at, for example, myEcofarmer, where you can adopt an apple tree on someone’s behalf and get his or her name placed on the tree’s plaque.
You could also extend your land grab and adopt an entire acre—in the Northern Rockies, the Appalachians, the U.S. Southern Forests, Africa, Las Californias, Costa Rica or Australia—via the Nature Conservancy Marketplace. There you can also give a gift-adoption of a coral reef in Palau, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas or Kimbe Bay, all helping to protect dazzling but endangered areas of the world. Announce it with an ecard or a printable gift announcement. (Your honoree receives a magnet set and four issues of Nature Conservancy magazine, too.)
For the Love of Literacy
A really wonderful way to honor others is by giving the gift of education to a child. Room to Read is an UNESCO literacy award-winning organization that partners with communities in Africa and Asia to establish libraries, construct classrooms, publish local-language children’s books and promote gender equality through girls’ education. Another is Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit that partners with U.S. healthcare providers to promote school readiness in pediatric exam rooms by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud.
Also, consider the I Have a Dream Foundation, which provides long-term mentoring, tutoring and enrichment programs to children in low-income areas so they can reach their education and career goals. (Who knows, maybe they’ll pay it back by becoming lawyers!) And there’s the innovative FirstBook.org, a nonprofit garnering big buzz for its use of social media to provide millions of new books to schools and children in need. Each allows you to donate in various increments and either send an ecard or print a personalized card yourself.
Gateways to Other Giving
We all know there are many laudable causes beyond those listed above, although, of course, it’s impossible to list them all here. You can, however, find a super-size stock of charity choices at the nonprofit portal JustGive.org, which has a database with information on nearly 1.8 million charities worldwide. It also offers a handy-dandy way to honor your clients and others via GiveNow Cards (available for any amount $10 and over), which they can redeem to support the charity of their choice. They can search for charities by name or keyword, or enter their zip code in the “Act Locally” box to donate your gift to causes in their own community. You get to choose from more than 100 ecard designs on the site or upload your own image to create a one-of-a-kind card. For a similar portal option, check out Charity Choice Gift Cards, with 250 national and global charities organized into 13 redemption categories, such as Cultural, Disabilities, Disaster Relief, Elderly, Homeless and Military Charities.
And here’s one more idea: ChangingThePresent.org, where, as the site’s banner says, “you can help make the world a better place, one gift at a time.” It has an expansive catalog of donation gift items wanted by hundreds of nonprofit organizations. Browse it for items or search by name to support a particular nonprofit, then select the item you’d like to give in your special someone’s name, and they’ll receive a personalized card with a photo and description (but not the price) of the item you selected in their name. Plus, individuals who join the site can take it a small step farther for mankind by creating a profile where they share their favorite causes and nonprofits, charitable drives they want to promote, and a personal wish list of donation gifts they want made in their name for a holiday, birthday or any special occasion. Just click the “Join” button at the top of the site and you can send your wish list out to your favorite folks via email to help ensure that you, too, receive the gift of good from others all year round—and earmarked right where you want it to go.
Joy M. White is a skilled professional editor and writer who has been crafting publications, features and marketing materials for various clients over the past two dozen years. She also served as Editor of ABA Law Practice magazine for nearly 10 years. As principal of JMW Editorial Services, her publishing consulting specialties encompass law practice content, business management issues and technology-focused materials. Joy is Contributing Editor at Attorney at Work.