Giving as a Gift-Giving Alternative

As we headed into the holiday season, my family and I had a revelation; there wasn’t a present any of us needed, but there were a lot of people who needed a lot of things. As a collective, we decided to make a change in our usual gift-giving routine. Instead of going out and purchasing gifts for each other this time of year, we set up a designated donation box that we are putting all of the money we would otherwise be spending. Also, we may slip a few dollars from a coffee we went without etcetera. Then at the end of this month, we are totaling the funds and deciding how best to donate it for a lasting impact.

Our first step was choosing a charity that was representative of our goals. Back in 2013, John F. Wasik of The New York Times foreshadowed the difficulties of making a competent donation. He said, “with charities increasingly involved in awareness campaigns, complex networks of cause marketing and often exorbitant overhead, donating to the most effective charity has never been more challenging.” Given the dark cloud that overshadows a lot of nonprofit work, I was more skeptical when deciding on the right organization to contribute to for our holiday gift alternative. I wanted to ensure it was impactful and also emulates our values and passions as a family.

Eventually, we settled on World Vision. Rooted in the same Christian values we have as a family and offering a variety of ways to donate; it seemed like a perfect fit. World Vision makes it possible for you hand select your gift from eleven different specialized categories such as agriculture or education. World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, partners, “with children, families, and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.”

The crucial last component was financial accountability. I wanted to ensure that the majority of our hard earned donation was going to the people we wanted to help. Nowadays, some nonprofits treat the sector like the last frontier with unrestricted exemptions and lavish marketing ploys. As a result, I made it my mission to ensure that the organization we selected offered transparency about their fundraising efforts and where it all went. 85% of World Vision donations go directly toward the cause with the other 15% supplementing fundraising and management costs. Charity Navigator even gives it a 100% transparency rating. These factors only bolstered my confidence in our decision to move to giving as a gift-giving alternative this year.

While we have yet to add up our total donation, we know we want to purchase animals for a family to provide a more sustainable source of food and income. We want to support feminine health and hygiene initiatives from World Vision, and of course, we want to promote education through their organization.

If you and your family are trying a similar gift-giving alternative – I would love to hear from you. Are you working with a different nonprofit? How did you come across their mission? Last but not least, the holidays are a great time to give and not just receive, and it’s important to remember that every bit counts


While Arisleyda Urena seeks out her own purpose, she also draws inspiration from people throughout history who have found theirs. She is fascinated by music history and art history, and the way that people have expressed themselves and depicted the worlds around them via many different outlets. As someone who has always advocated for the power of self-help — and believes that every single person needs (and deserves) the chance to learn and grow — Arisleyda Urena encourages others to find their passion. For more from Aris visit or find her on twitter at Arisleyda_U.

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