A Different Kind of Gift Catalog

During the holidays, my mailbox is flooded with catalogs from Pottery Barn to the most random one-offs that sell leopard print, stiletto shoe wine holders and fancy-pants steam jet, jewelry cleaning machines. But over the last few years, I’ve also started receiving gift catalogs far more unusual. They are from humanitarian organizations.

People often make contributions at this time of year and these days, when contemplating giving to an organization, we want the specifics on where our money is going. In response to this, some humanitarian organizations now offer full-color, pictorial catalogs that describe very specific items and projects for which you can purchase to donate. You shop through the catalog and choose which you’d like to support.

Here are a few examples from Samaritan’s Purse catalog:

  • Mosquito nets for malaria prevention ($10)
  • Emergency shelter (for disaster victims) ($130 or you can purchase a share of the cost at $13).
  • Rescue a Child from Exploitation ($75). This, I think, needs a little more explanation. It provides a rescued child with basic necessities, safe shelter, job training and counseling.

They are tangible. They are specific. And, they let you choose to support a cause that matters to you perhaps for a very personal reason.

Heifer International is another organization that has embraced this gift catalog. In fact, they were the first I ever received. They focus on livestock and agricultural programs as ways to provide a source of income and self-reliance.

A couple of years ago, some good friends of mine made a donation in my name to help a family in the Andes, making me the proud contributor to the cost of a llama (or alpaca…I can’t remember which, and wouldn’t know the difference anyway). But, I thought it was great.

It might be a nice idea to go through one of these catalogs with your children—as a way to see another side of Christmas beyond what they hope to find under the tree. But be prepared. If they are anything like my nieces, I can pretty much guarantee they are going to pick a cute flock of chicks or Angora rabbits to donate. But then, it could be a lesson on what these animals can provide to help their owners. Just a thought.

Have you received these types of catalogs? What do you think of them?


7 comments on “A Different Kind of Gift Catalog

  1. After many years of struggling to think up small gift ideas for family and friends for Christmas, our church brought out “Wise Gifts”. This works through an organization to bring necessities to needed areas of the world. You can give all or part of anything such as a llama or chicks to families in impoverished areas, aid for local abused children, and pure water from Water Missions International. Now the fun part is giving in the name of a friend or relative to something that means a lot to you an/or the receiver.


  2. As Marney alluded to, this can be an important lesson for children. Catalogs such as these can really help put into perspective the world we live in compared to the dire situation that so many other families and children deal with every day. We all (children and adults) get so wrapped up in what we want, want, want for Christmas and we easily forget that so many others would be happy and content just knowing they now have a source of water or milk or shelter, etc for the foreseeable future.

  3. Christmas time for the last 9 years has been overshadowed by the loss of one of our children. Over time we have learned how to handle the grief. I am just now at a place where I am looking forward to making this time of year a time of reflection and to try and find some JOY and Christmas spirit to enjoy. It seems as if the marketing depts of all the major retailers have reached a fevrish pitch as they scream incessantly for our last penny. Sure, we all have wants and if we fall subject to the constant reminders that we must have this and that then we can spend the next year paying for all the “stuff”. I think it is awesome to be able to pick out specific items in these humanitarian catalogs to give to people who desperately need it. Despite the downturn of the economy here in the U.S. we are still filthy rich compared to most third world countries. Our dollars go a very long way when it comes to meeting these types of needs. Thanks for reminding us of this fact.

    • Christmas time seems to bring up memories of both our happiest and most painful moments. I hope this year you have a wonderful holiday with your family and find sparks of that joy again.

      In the future, I think I might do a post on how grieving is often a catalyst for becoming involved in a cause….something we can continue to do for a loved one while also attempting to prevent it from happening to others. Thanks for your comment.

      Merry Christmas

  4. Christmas can bring a range of emotions….this year, I choose to focus on Hope. In re-reading the Christmas story, Hope is an underlining theme even when circumstances are not as expected.

    Making a charitable donation, such as a fulfilling a real, tangible need, can bring hope to the recipient – and also to the giver.

  5. As I prepared to click on the link to the Samaritan’s Purse link, I thought, Wow!, this would be the FIRST time I’ve ever REQUESTED to receive a catalog. What a great idea to go through catalogs of this sort with our children, particularly around Christmastime.


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