This holiday season has crept up all of us, and we know we’re not alone in wanting to share the festive spirit with friends, neighbors and family in a socially conscious way. And what better way to do so than give the gift of an impactful local donation? To personalize such gifts, we’ve put together a list of pairings — donations with small DIY gifts that your friends and family can enjoy as well.
This list prioritizes simple DIY projects that would be fun to do with family or a group of friends this season. Instead of a cookie swap, host a DIY party and encourage your friends to support the nonprofits in their area doing impactful work.
In case you are searching for another charity to donate to this season, we recommend using Charity Navigator to understand your full impact. It’s an independent organization that evaluates charitable organizations in the U.S. Many organizations will let you donate in someone else’s name and will mail (or allow you to print out) a donation card to share with that person so they know the transaction has already occurred. Whether it be a local or global organization, they will be excited about your creative gift idea that not only benefits them, but also their community.
Have more ideas? Please share them in the comments below!
For the home cook
Donate: Support the Alameda County Community Food Bank, which serves one in five Alameda county residents — and currently all gifts until the end of the year are being matched, so your gift has double the impact. It will also send an e-card to loved ones.
Make: To pair with your donation, grab some fresh herbs at the grocery store and a container of salt, and create a custom garden herb salt for them for cooking. It’s perfect next to the stove or on the table for sprinkling. Find a tutorial for drying herbs and mixing the salt here.
For the holiday hosts
Donate: As a thank you after a meal hosted by family or friends, consider donating to Heifer International. It lets you pick the type of animals donated, with affordable price points for donations such as a chicks, geese or honeybees. Alternatively, make a gift to Rebuilding Together Oakland, an organization building community partnerships to rejuvenate low-income communities through the rehabilitation of homes and nonprofit facilities.
Make: Make something simple that your host can look forward to enjoying the night of, or on other evenings. This tutorial for Rosemary Lavender Candles would be a wonderful and welcome gift, and you can switch up the scents by using other natural ingredients or essential oils.
For the gourmet foodie
Donate: Consider helping launch the Food Justice Food Truck, a restorative economics collaboration around healthy food in Oakland supported by Phat Beets Produce, the Self Help Hunger Program, and the North Oakland Restorative Justice Council. Different levels of donation come with fun thank-you gifts — from jars of jam made by the Phat Beetz Youth Pickle Company to a tree planting in Oakland.
Make: Grab a bottle, vodka and vanilla beans, and start a batch of vanilla extract to gift to a friend. Though the process will take a month or two, it’s something you can gift now with a note for when to crack it open. Your recipients get to watch the beautiful process as the liquid darkens and becomes vanilla extract. There are tons of tutorials online, but here is one we recommend.
For the urban gardener or farmers market lover
Donate: Check out Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project, where Oakland youth plan, harvest, plant and sell produce. Alternatively, look into City Slicker Farms, which seeks to address food insecurity in West Oakland through urban farming education programs, backyard garden projects and sliding scale market farm stands.
Make: Grab some plain tote bags or tea towels and use vegetables and fabric paint to create a creative tote bag for carrying produce. For inspiration, here is one tutorial, but get creative — carve leaf patterns into halved sweet potatoes or use potatoes to make a polka dot pattern.
For the constant traveler
Donate: Check out Global Glimpse, a nonprofit based out of Oakland that brings high school students, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, on programs around the world. It pairs these trips paired with after-school workshops on topics of leadership, globalization and development to prepare the students for the program.
Make: Whip up a few small jars or bags of homemade muesli or trail mix, using your recipient’s favorite nuts and seeds. It’s a simple breakfast on the go that they can keep with them on their adventures. Find our favorite breakfast muesli mix here, or a trail mix packed with hazelnuts, chocolate chunks, pumpkin seeds and cranberries here.
For the artsy friend
Donation: Gift a membership to one of your recipient’s favorite local museums or check out Oakland Digital Arts & Literacy Center (ODALC). ODALC provides hands-on digital media workshops and mentorships to underserved young people and small business owners.
Make: At craft or art stores, you can find sets of blank cards and a small watercolor set to make your own set of greeting or thank you cards to gift. Do this with your friend as an activity, or gift a set of cards you create that they can use at a later time. Use a white gel pen or brush tip calligraphy pen to write a message like “Thank you,” “A Note” or “Hello” over the watercolor.
For the news or music junkie
Donate: Donate to NPR, KQED Public Media, Youth Radio or Berkeleyside. Alternatively, check out Today’s Future Sound — a fiscal project of Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation, which teaches youth the art of music production and DJing. For additional local impact, check out the Hidden Genius Project in Oakland, which offers a summer program for black male youth to gain skills, mentorship and experience in tech.
Make: Whisk up some Wholegrain Buttermilk Pancake Mix for your recipient to enjoy during leisurely weekend mornings reading the paper or listening to the radio. Made with whole wheat flour and oats, this simple recipe works for pancakes or waffles and is great for gifting in a jar. Find the instructions here — don’t forget to include a tag with cooking instructions.
Marisa Westbrook is a public health professional, recipe developer and food photographer. Visit her website, Uproot Kitchen, for simple and healthy recipes made with whole ingredients, kitchen DIY ideas and urban gardening posts. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.