Buy Once, Give Twice: Gifts With a Conscience
by Jen Hatmaker on November 29th, 2014

I'm not a good guide for traditional gift-giving. I'm sure I told you, but I once bought Brandon front row tickets to Jamie Foxx's "stand up comedy show" which turned out to be his "concert." We couldn't hear for three days and it now stands as the monument to my well-intentioned but poorly executed gift-giving skillz. (To add insult to injury, Brandon is like the President of the United States of gift-giving. It is actually embarrassing.)

But listen up, gentle reader, because I may be unable to handle the fine print on a concert website, but I can track down socially conscious vendors and products that are not only INCREDIBLY AWESOME but take good care of the earth, the artisans, the community, and the world. We buy once, give twice here, and in a season where Americans will spend over 500 BILLION dollars in a matter of weeks (for the love), we should make sure some of those dollars go toward more than just filling our homes and closets with more things we don't need. Our dollars can actually be a powerful force for good. Women are famously easier to shop for in this genre, but I tracked down great gifts for men and kids, too. (Be also thinking about teachers, neighbors, friends, etc!)
The following companies and products give back, employ vulnerable workers, invest in struggling communities, and follow fair-trade and ecologically sound policies. Where I listed a specific product, don't forget to paruse the entire website, because these are companies you can believe in. (Several vendors include awesome gifts for men AND women AND kids, so check them all out.)

Sseko Designs

Sseko Designs is an ethical fashion brand that hires high potential women in Uganda to enable them to earn money through dignified employment that goes directly towards their college educations. In addition to our work in Uganda, we design and source ethically made products from East Africa. We believe that good business can be an incredibly powerful force for positive social change. Sseko products are all made in Africa and create jobs, empower artisans and help end the cycle of poverty by building healthy communities and economies.

31 Bits

 We work with Ugandans to create fashionable, quality products. They earn an income enabling them to provide for their families. We care for them holistically through counseling, health education, finance training, and business mentorships. After 5 years in our program, our beneficiaries are ready to graduate. A graduated beneficiary has her own business and is educated, healthy, and empowered.

Noonday Collection

Noonday creates economic opportunity for the vulnerable. We partner with artisans in the developing world, empowering them to grow sustainable businesses. By creating a marketplace for their goods, we create dignified jobs at living wages. Noonday Collection does not believe that providing a hand out is a sustainable long-term solution to poverty. We aim to be a sustainable business that gives women across the United States a way to make a lasting difference in the fight against poverty and injustice. (THAT BAG THOUGH.)

Krochet Kids

Through a unique model we are empowering the women of Northern Uganda and Peru with the assets, skills, and knowledge to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. The result is long lasting and sustainable change. We provide a job so that women can meet the present needs of their families. We educate them so that they develop beyond the need for outside aid. We provide mentorship to help each lady plan a unique and sustainable career path for the future. (Great stuff for men, women, and kids, y'all. Beanie heaven.)

Falling Whistles

We identify and reach out to local visionaries, raise money to finance their projects and offer mentorship along the whole process, from business plan to daily operation. Growth of local business leads to sustainable jobs, financial independence and greater opportunities for the community at large. Our mission is to build a social development fund that fuels progress towards PEACE IN CONGO.

Raven + Lily

Raven + Lily currently helps employ marginalized women in India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cambodia, Pakistan, and the USA at fair trade wages to give them access to a safe job, sustainable income, health care, education, and a real chance to to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families. Raven + Lily is committed to providing products that are made by hand, follow fair trade standards, and honor our eco-friendly commitment. (<-- This Almaz necklace is an exclusive piece designed for the 2015 IF : Gathering!)



We’re in business to help improve lives. With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for One. What began as a simple idea has evolved into a powerful business model helping address need, and also advance health, education and economic opportunity for children and their communities around the world.

Warby Parker

By circumventing traditional channels , designing glasses in-house, and engaging with customers directly, we’re able to provide higher-quality, better-looking prescription eyewear at a fraction of the going price. We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket. We also believe that everyone has the right to see. Almost one billion people worldwide lack access to glasses, which means that 15% of the world’s population cannot effectively learn or work. To help address this problem, Warby Parker partners with non-profits like VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need.

LSTN Wood Headphones

We believe that what’s good for business should be good for the world. When we started LSTN, our mission was to create a company for global change by providing high quality products that help fund hearing restoration and spread awareness for the global problem of hearing loss and hearing impairment. Our Giving Back. Amplified. program wasn’t an afterthought or marketing gimmick, it was the reason we started LSTN. We didn’t just want to create another headphone company. We wanted to create something that could change the world. (THESE PRODUCTS ARE SO GORGEOUS I COULD DIE.)

Coffee Lovers Delight by Laughing Man

Hugh Jackman and I wanted to start something that recognizes the power of entrepreneurship, ingenuity, livelihood, and access to such opportunity. Laughing Man Worldwide helps entrepreneurs help humanity by creating and developing new business, and in return for that help, Laughing Man worldwide receives some ownership. 100% of Laughing Man Worldwide revenue goes back to education, community development and new business development. The story we want to tell is how you and I made the efforts necessary to give individuals the opportunity for freedom, dignity, livelihood, and laughter. How we each participated in whatever way we could to look out for the person next to us.

The Giving Keys

The Giving Keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness to make jewelry out of repurposed keys that get sold and shared around the world. Each key is unique and carries a message like HOPE, STRENGTH, DREAM or COURAGE. When the wearer of the key encounters someone else who needs the message on the key, they give it away and then send us the story of their key being paid forward. (Be sure to check out the website, because they have some really cool iPhone covers, key chains, accessories, and single keys your man may dig if he can't pull off a key necklace like Ryan Gosling and Harry Styles.)

Wood Bow Tie by Design With Benefits

Design With Benefits is an online store featuring clever products made with social and environmental benefits in mind. A percentage of our net profits goes toward creative projects using design to solve all sorts of social problems including the environment, poverty, education, and equity. You can vote to select the project that will receive our next donation! (You guys, seriously. Go through this site. There are so many interesting and unique gift ideas, I can't handle it. The Wood Bow Tie was my personal pic, but they have all kinds of goodies for men, women, and kids.)


Bookmaking Kit by Design With Benefits

I just talked about Design With Benefits above, but I wanted to highlight this adorable Bookmaking Kit for kids (says the author). it includes handmade paper and brightly colored beads, sequins, and thread. These can become books, journals, or scrapbooks.

Esperos Bag as seen on The Grommet

The name Esperos is derived from the Spanish verb “esperar” which means “to hope.” Each backpack and book bag sold sends a child in a developing country to school for a year. By donating as much as 50% of its profits, Esperos gives between $5-25 per bag to organizations such as Fonkoze in Haiti and Pencils of Promise in Guatemala. (The Grommet is a product launch platform. This means we find unique, undiscovered products and help them succeed. Our end goal is that within five years 10% of all products flowing through U.S. retail will be originating from independent small-scale Makers. Yay for the innovators!)

Fabulous Christian Books for Kids

By my amazing friends! Your kids will love these:

For Such a Time as This: Stories of the Women of the Bible, Retold for Girls by Angie Smith

God Made Light by Matthew Paul and Jessica Turner

It Will Be Okay: Trusting God Through Fear and Change by Lysa TerKeurst

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp

USA Scratch Map by Uncommon Goods

As you journey through America, track your travels with this handsome, scratch-off map. The poster-sized map of the United States is printed with red, white and blue scratch-off paint that reveals bursts of bright yellow to bright red gradient when rubbed with the edge of a coin. (Be sure to check out the whole website! UncommonGoods is an online marketplace offering creatively designed, high-quality merchandise at affordable prices. We donate a portion of each order to your choice of non-profit organizations: American Forests, Women for Women International, City Harvest, and the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). I also loved the Ion Glow-in-the-Dark Putty and the Build Your Own City Kit!)


Slate Cheeseboard with Soapstone Chalk by Uncommon Goods

I mentioned Uncommon Goods above (so many amazing products!), but I couldn't pass up this gift recommendation. I don't know a home cook who wouldn't love this. So affordable and handmade. (This is super pricey, but when I also saw the Reclaimed Wood Cookbook Stand, I almost cried tears out of my eyes. LOVE. A handy guy or gal could totally make this. <-- This is something I say all the time about everything: "I could make that." Which would happen never.)

Williams-Sonoma Cutting Board with iPad Stand benefitting No Kid Hungry

First of all, this cutting board is gorgeous. Second of all, the iPad stand is genius. (I cook with an open iPad or laptop 95% of the time.) Third of all, every purchase of this lovely product provides 450 meals for kids in need! 450! Trust me, anyone who loves the kitchen also loves a Williams-Sonoma box.

Share: The Cookbook that Celebrates our Common Humanity (Women for Women International)

Expand someone's recipe collection, and help change lives across the globe with Women for Women International's Share cookbook. The compilation features photographs and recipes from renowned international chefs and the kitchens of women living in war-torn countries. This is a cookbook about celebration: celebrating women who have survived war and other conflicts, and celebrating the foods that nourish us and bring us together. One hundred percent of the proceeds go right back into those countries, providing women with business training and job skills so they can get back on their feet.

Sampler Chocolate Gift Collection by Theo

We’re dedicated to making our world a better place. And we’re finding ways to do it through our passion—bringing out the best of the cocoa bean. In Central America and Africa, founder Joe Whinney fell in love with the land and the people farming there. He recognized an injustice in the way that both were being exploited and wanted to do something to make a difference. Everything we make and sell meets the highest standards for organic, Fair Trade and Fair for Life. Our small batch production is truly an art form. Every aspect of our manufacturing process is controlled by us. That means we can guarantee that every step, every ingredient, everything that goes into each bar is as special as the beans themselves.

These are amazing vendors using business for good! I am so proud of them. Business owners have a choice - they can prioritize profit at any cost or they can take care of the world and its inhabitants and use their companies with great purpose. In the same way, consumers have a choice - we can prioritize cheap prices at any cost or we can make deliberate, responsible decisions and tell our dollars exactly where to go. (Most of these amazing vendors have online sales and/or free shipping right now! Be sure to look for their deals!)

Last few thoughts: When we can, let's support the little guy! Buy local or handmade goods and support small businesses as much as possible! Ideas include:
  • Etsy: an entire online marketplace dedicated to handmade products that recently became a Certified B Corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.
  • Homemade/handmade: Make it yourself! You remember that Book Wreath I made that took me six hours? It cost less than $10.
  • Refurbished/upcycled gifts: Turn cheap or free junk into something gorgeous!
  • Buy creative local gifts:
    • Give tickets to a local musician or play or show or game
    • Give a membership or a class (Central Market here in Austin has amazing cooking classes and demonstrations)
  • Give the gift of TIME! My mother-in-law is great at this. She often gives my kids a whole day one-on-one (a rarity in a big family), and they go to plays or the lake or a day trip or some local adventure. They love it. They'll remember this long after gifts have been forgotten.
Finally, really REALLY make your online dollars count.
  1. My favorite platform for giving twice is Pure Charity who partners with over 1000 top online retailers and brands that offer a percent back to your personal Giving Fund. It's too easy: you install the Pure Charity plugin, and anytime you are shopping online with a PC partner, the icon pops up, you click on it, and a percentage of your purchase goes straight into your Giving Fund which you distribute through any participating project you choose.
  2. Secondly, if you choose to shop through Amazon (Prime is my reason for living), be sure to shop through the AmazonSmile platform! It actually makes no sense not to. Same prices, same products, same account, same Wish List, same everything except AmazonSmile donates 0.5% of your purchase price on eligible products to your favorite charity (over 1 million participating orgs). Just select a charity and shop as usual!  

We keep gifts pretty simple in our family. We do this:

Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.

Three years ago, we added Something to Give: we give each kid a set amount of money to spend on others. On Christmas Eve, we all sit down with catalogs from Compassion, IJM, and World Vision, and the kids buy chickens and soccer balls and seeds and backpacks for other families around the world. They lose their minds, pooling money and taking 100 years to choose their gifts. This is my favorite Christmas thing.

Just a little bit of intentionality can make an enormous difference this Christmas. Giving can be irresponsible and compulsive or it can be generous and beneficial. We can use our powerful consumer dollars to doubly bless, sending a message to Big Business that we actually cannot be bought and as privileged consumers, we will prioritize responsible, generous vendors who do the most good with their companies. At the same time, we can say YES to small-business owners and budding artisans who are usually outshadowed by big box stores and artificially deflated prices. (I can feel myself getting worked up. I wrote a whole book about this already, so I'll just simmer down.)

Unfocused, irresponsible consumerism is bad for the world and bad for our souls. One surefire way to worship Jesus this month and remember why on earth we are even having this conversation is to Do Good with our money. Isn't that more in keeping with a loving, humble Savior who came to the earth to save it? We take care of each other - the people in our homes, the ones next door, and all around the world. We give generously and wisely and intentionally...kind of the way we were saved.

May this Christmas be meaningful and worshipful and beautiful, and my we reach our hands across the whole earth and declare with our words, our actions, and our purchases: Peace on earth, goodwill to men.

What other wonderful vendors do you know? Leave the link in the comments!

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