By Molly Geppert

As much as we might not be able to believe it, the holiday season is fast approaching!
This time of the year always seems to fly by in a whirlwind of twinkling lights, holiday festivities,
the merriment of spending quality time with friends and family and braving the crowds to shop
for gifts. If you’re like me, the idea of going out and shopping for gifts is not your favorite part
of the season. Battling crowds, searching for parking spaces and enduring the weather
to buy gifts does not put me in the holiday mood.

There is also the feeling that I’m buying into the consumerism of the holidays and adding to the world’s environmental problems through the processes needed to make these gifts and the waste. Do my friends really want or need these cat wine glass charms or candle holders? Chances are, they don’t. With space at a premium in my friends’ cozy dwellings, there isn’t much room for extraneous gifts that will take up precious space. They will likely not bring additional happiness and might just be re-gifted or wind up in a consignment store.

That’s why I love the idea of donating to a charity in your loved one’s name rather than buying more junk. This is an especially compelling notion in the face of huge government spending cuts to social services that are likely in the years to come. However, it’s important to donate to an organization or cause that is close to the heart of who you’re doing this for; don’t proselytize your own cause. Choose an organization that matches them, not you. It’s to show that you’ve really thought about someone and their likes and interests.

However, choosing the right nonprofit can be an overwhelming and time-consuming task because you want to make sure and that the organization is transparent about how they operate. There are many online tools and websites to help you research various nonprofits and choose the best one for
the person you’re donating for: Network for Good, GuideStar, GreatNonprofits, BBB and Charity Navigator, to name a few. You can even buy gift cards to JustGive and GlobalGiving and your giftee they can select the charity themselves. However, if you choose to donate through one of these third party crowd funding platforms, keep in mind that they take a fee out of your donation, as much as 15%.

For a more interactive experience, LottoLove is a great option. With the tagline of “Everyone is a winner, no need
to worry. Start scratching!” these small, chicly designed scratch cards win for good instead of cash. For every card purchased, LottoLove donates to nonprofits that work to provide clean water, solar light, nutritious meals or literacy
tools. These cards can be ordered online at givelottolove.com

If you normally give to charities around the holidays anyway, whether as a gift, for the tax receipt, or just to feel like you’ve done your civic duty, consider giving on these special giving days: Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and is a national (and quickly becoming a global) day of giving. Many nonprofits secure matching donations on this day to make your donation go further. #GivingTuesday falls on Tuesday, November 28th this year, so mark your calendars and see if you favorite nonprofit has a match.

Colorado Gives Day is another special day where your donation goes further. On Tuesday, December 5th, the Community First Foundation and FirstBank provide a Million Dollar Incentive Fund to increase the value of every donation made on this day until the fund is all used up. Donors go to the Coloradogive.org website to make their donation. They can even schedule the transaction for those of us who have a tendency to forget. Each Colorado nonprofit receives a percentage of the total amount of money raised on Colorado Gives Day.

Many organizations have the ability to send a card or, if you want to go paperless, an email notifying your giftee that a donation was made in their name. Typically the amount donated is not included, but make sure you look ahead of time if that is something you care about.

Once you have chosen a nonprofit whose mission you find compelling, please give an unrestricted gift, which means don’t put strings on your donation. Unrestricted donations allow the nonprofit to use your money where it is needed most urgently. There’s nothing more frustrating for a nonprofit than having a huge fund tied up in one project while scrambling around trying to scrap enough cash together to pay for other areas that are just as important. If you’ve done your homework and researched your nonprofits, trust them to use your money wisely. The flexibility you will be giving alone is almost priceless… almost.

If you’re looking for a local nonprofit, consider the nonprofit I work for, Trees, Water & People (TWP)! Our work is guided by two core beliefs: that natural resources are best protected when local people play an active role in their care and management and that preserving local ecosystems is essential for the ongoing social, economic, and environmental health of communities everywhere.

We are staffed by a group of dedicated altruists who feel strongly about helping communities better manage the natural resources upon which their livelihoods depend. Our approach creates economic opportunity while improving the environment and human health in Central America and on U.S. Tribal Lands. To learn more about TWP, visit treeswaterpeople.org.

No matter which charity you choose to give to this holiday season, your gift will be filled with meaning and make a positive difference in the world. Happy Holidays!

Molly Geppert
Molly Geppert was born and raised in Fort Collins. She got her start at Trees, Water & People as an intern and has since moved on to marketing manager. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and German at the University of Colorado. She also earned two Master’s degrees in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development and Internal Affairs through a dual degree program with American University in Washington, DC and the United Nations Mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. Learn more at https://treeswaterpeople.org/.