How to Give A Holiday Gift That Gives Back

holiday gift braceletOne year, when my kids were small enough to boss around, I strategized our holiday gift giving around an arts-and-crafts activity that I knew they’d love to create—and our family would love to receive. We made organic playdough* and used assorted animal cookie cutters to make cows and chickens, which we then painted and decorated with upcycled feathers, sequins, ribbons and cloth. Then we made a donation to Heifer International—creating a holiday gift that gives back. 

Heifer has transformed the lives of more than 25 million families, but there are one billion people still in need. You can help by giving a holiday gift that gives back—and even win one for yourself!

Heifer International is a non-profit organization that is helping to end poverty and hunger in countries around the globe—including the United States. Just as with the proverb, the idea is simple: If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him forever. Families in need can apply to receive the gift of life-sustaining livestock—for example, a cow that can give milk, fertilizer and the strength to pull a plow, or a sheep that provides cheese and wool, which can be knitted and sold.

In turn, the family pledges to give the first female offspring of their livestock to another family in their community. The gift that gives back is passed on, and the entire community has a chance at forging a sustainable livelihood—what Alton Brown calls in this video, “a recipe for lasting change.” 

For the past 70 years, Heifer International has helped more than 25 million families lift themselves out of hunger and poverty—but there are one billion people around the world who still live in extreme poverty. With a holiday gift that gives back, Heifer International can help.

Our family’s donation to Heifer International was commemorated by the animal ornaments that we created. We packaged them in plain brown cardboard boxes that I “borrowed” from Whole Foods—hey, it’s a good cause, right?—nestled in shredded newspaper, with a card that described how our family had given a gift that gives back. Each year, we hang those ornaments on our trees and today, many of our family members also support Heifer International with a holiday gift of their own.

This year, Heifer International has made choosing a holiday gift that gives back a whole lot less labor intensive. Through their gift catalogue, you can give a flock of ducks to Bangladesh ($20), honeybees to Guatemala ($30), a goat to Zambia ($120, or one share for $10).

Or you can show the love with this wrap bracelet or necklace ($16), fair trade made by female artisans in India. Before meeting with Heifer International representative Allison Stephens to talk about their new initiative, I got a chance to preview the bracelet—I haven’t taken it off since.

Want to win one for yourself? I bought five to give away to our community, in hopes that you’ll also be inspired to give a gift that gives back this season. Enter here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
*You can DIY your own non-toxic play dough by mixing one cup salt with two cups organic flour, then slowly adding one cup warm water and mixing it with your hands until it moves from paste to dough. If you want colored dough, separate the flour and salt mixture into parts, and use natural (no artificial food dye) colorants added to the water, then add the water to the mixture. Use toothpicks, knives, pizza rollers to create shapes, then cook in a 100 degree oven for several hours (depending on thickness) and paint to decorate.



  1. I received the bracelets a couple days ago, they are simply stunning. I plan on giving one to my Mom, who has been gifting from Heifer International for years. She will love it, thanks again Mommy Greenest!

  2. I have given 2 cars to the salvation army. Among other stuff. That’s how I can give back.

  3. I think we should support what we can. I know I try to. I support local areas like the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities.

  4. amybelle2001 says

    I actually love TOMS for giving back.

  5. Love Heifer Intl! Great giveaway!!

  6. Money. I, too, support this wonderful and amazing charity. They turn my cash into miracles. Very cool.

  7. Heifer is something I’ve gifted a few times – what a wonderful idea. Charitable gifts like that are my favorite way to give back!

  8. These are my favorite gifts that give back, such a great idea.

  9. The Salvation Army donations are always the best.

  10. Heifer International is my favorite gift that gives back. I’ve donated to them in the past. I love that they aren’t just about donating money, but about helping to provide ongoing income for people.

  11. Every year when my sister plans my nephew’s birthday party, she tells all the parents of his classmates to donate to their favorite charity instead of bringing a gift. The kids get to enjoy a party and have fun, and charities in our local community benefit from the donations. I feel like this could apply equally well at Christmas– the important part of the holiday is being together with your family and friends, so why not just enjoy each other’s company and take the money you would have spent on gifts and donate it to an organization you care about instead?

  12. my favorite is having my children give one of their gifts to a homeless shelter… it really gives back and teaches them

    • Rachel Sarnoff says

      That is amazing. I am so impressed! I wish my kids would do that. We do it with used toys, but that is really not much of a sacrifice, is it? I’m going to talk to my youngest this year about donating. Thanks for the suggestion, Debbie!

  13. We love Heifer! We have been gifting various things from Heifer for years for Christmas and other events. I always look forward to receiving the holiday catalog!! What a great organization!!!

  14. I didn’t have one but this organization is amazing!!

  15. I love Me to We products

  16. As always my wife would really enjoy this!

  17. We just received our Heifer International catalog yesterday and I look forward to sitting down with my family and choosing a gift. What a wonderful organization!

  18. either the Send a Girl to School or GIFT OF CLEAN WATER

  19. Very cool project !

  20. Dear Heifer International,
    Thank you for what you do you are wonderful!!!

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