As Valentine’s Day approaches, you might be running a little short on gift ideas for that special someone in your life. She may want him to get her a perfectly romantic gift that will sweep her off her feet and into his arms, right? Well, while he’s left sweating, trying to come up with that perfect gift, she’s probably playing it cool, hoping something will come to her that will please him. Something. Very soon. Hopefully.
The truth is, though, both of you have no idea what to get for each other. So while you’re out shopping for Valentine’s Day this year, why not keep a few charitable ideas on the backburner? If you don’t think Valentine’s Day and charity go hand-in-hand, consider these alternative gift options.
RESCUING SEA TURTLES IN WATAMU, KENYA
Travel is always a great gift to give your Valentine, but there are so many places to go and so much to see, how do you pick the perfect location? When considering a gift for your Valentine, think about their passions. Is he or she adventurous and environmentally conscious? If so, then a trip to Kenya to help endangered sea turtles might be just the thing.
It might seem a little farfetched, but just imagine how romantic it would be. Your Valentine tears into their gift and finds two plane tickets sitting at the bottom of the box. Soon, both of you are swept off to the exotic, sunny beaches of Watamu, Kenya, to help rescue endangered sea turtles. This is not just a romantic fantasy. The Local Ocean Trust funds the Watamu Turtle Watch, a conservation program that needs volunteers year-round to help protect and rescue the local turtle population. Virtually anyone can volunteer, and there is a wide assortment of volunteer activities available, including conservation and research, education and awareness, community development, and many other opportunities. You could be anywhere, depending on your interests, from the lagoon to the classroom. Many of the Turtle Watch’s programs need further development and are just waiting for committed individuals to make a difference. And that just might be the two of you!
WATER IS THE NEW CHOCOLATE
There are plenty of ways to help alleviate the world’s suffering without going there yourself. Instead, let Scott Harrison do the work for you!
By donating $20 in your Valentine’s name to Charity: Water, you can help fund the digging of a well in an impoverished village in a developing nation of your choice, and ensure that one person has access to clean drinking water for the next 20 years. For Valentine’s Day, Charity: Water is allowing donations to be personalized. Now you can send an e-card to your Valentine, telling him or her how much you donated in their name. And, better yet, they get to choose which country receives the donation.
The two of you can also plan to volunteer your time or start Charity: Water events in your hometown or your school. This might be the perfect project for two lovebirds who are dedicated to giving people fresh drinking water and saving lives without shelling out the big bucks.
Charity: Water has developed freshwater wells, rainwater catchments and sand filters and has already given clean water to men and women in India, Bangladesh, Honduras, Rwanda, Kenya, the Republic of Malawi, Ethiopia and other countries whose people are dying every day of thirst and disease.
CLASSY! DONORS CHOOSE.ORG
Education is imperative to every child’s future, so it seems counterintuitive that funding is always getting cut for some of the most important subjects in our schools. Music and physical education are usually the hardest hit, but in these difficult economic times, science, math, English, art and all of the other essential areas of study are in danger of ending up on the chopping block.
If your Valentine cares about education, make a donation in their name to www.DonorsChoose.org. The website’s slogan is memorable: “Teachers ask. You choose. Students learn.” What this means is that teachers themselves ask for what they need in their classrooms, and your donations provide the money to purchase them. Find out what supplies a classroom needs (such as Bunsen Burners or textbooks, computers or musical instruments) and donate in your Valentine’s name toward the purchase of those supplies. Once the money is donated, the students send thank you letters and photos.
COUPLE’S COOKING CLASSES
There are plenty of places to go to learn to cook, but one of the best we found was the Viking Cooking School. With locations in 14 states, it’s a good bet that there’s a school near you. The Viking Cooking School
may be the most enjoyable school on earth — even the homework is fun. From the novice to the experienced cook, (like you and your Valentine) over 77,000 students including kids, couples, business professionals, and others come alone, or together with friends, to attend the classes each year. If you love to cook, entertain, or just appreciate the pleasure of great food, the Viking Cooking School is a good place to indulge your passions. Also, this school donates $5 of each paid tuition from Girls' Night Out classes to the National Breast Cancer Foundation whose mission is to save lives by increasing awareness of breast cancer through education and by providing mammograms for those in need.
CELL PHONES FOR CHARITY
Cell phones have just as long a shelf life as any other hi-tech gadget, which is to say none. But when your Valentine’s cell phone starts to look a little frayed around the edges and you decide to buy them a new one, make sure they don’t throw the old one away. Instead, have them donate their phone to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), which will in turn donate it to a much deserving battered woman.
NCADV has partnered with The Wireless Foundation for over 7 years on the CALL TO PROTECT program. Through the collection of deactivated cell and wireless phones, an important tool has been provided for victims of domestic violence who may encounter emergency situations. The lifeline provided by donated phones has literally saved lives over the course of their partnership. In addition to phones being distributed for emergency use, proceeds from the sale of phones not utilized for emergency use help fund agencies that work to end violence in the home, such as NCADV.
So go out, buy your Valentine that new iPhone or BlackBerry Touch, but don’t forget to save the old phone. You might save a life as well.
CONCERT TICKETS FOR CHARITY
Music is a magical thing, especially when it comes to relationships. What did you do on your first date? Odds are it had something to do with music. So just imagine how great it would be to spend a night together seeing your favorite performer live. Concert tickets are always a great gift idea, and they’re relatively cheap, too.
But say you’re starting to like this charity theme we’ve got going. How can buying concert tickets contribute to charitable causes? Bono, Sting, Dave Matthews Band, and others are big names in charity. Spend some time searching the internet for music-related charity, and you might find bandfromtv.org
The Band From TV lineup includes a powerhouse of well-known and acclaimed actors including Greg Grunberg, Teri Hatcher, James Denton, Bob Guiney, Bonnie Somerville, and Jesse Spencer, stars of Heroes, Desperate Housewives, The Bachelor to Cashmere Mafia, and now they have teamed up to raise money for charities they believe in. If your Valentine likes what he hears, keep an eye on bandfromtv.org, and buy them tickets to their next show or buy him the CD and DVD, exclusively available at Amazon.com.
GIFT CARDS AND ONLINE SHOPPING
THE AFFINITY CARD
Affinity cards are credit cards that donate a percentage of their proceeds to charitable non-profit foundations. Most financial institutions offer these cards, and they are just as easy to get as any other kind of credit card.
Now your Valentine has the opportunity to buy his or her own gifts and help their favorite cause in the meanwhile. The World Wildlife Fund, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, and the Make a Wish Foundation are just a few of the charities benefitting from these cards. But be warned! Interest can run high on these cards (anywhere from 15% to 22%), so it’s wise to make sure you pay off your purchases at the end of each month. For more details, ask an agent at your bank if they have affinity cards available.
THE CHARITY GIFT CARD
A charity gift card is a relatively new consumer product, but you might have already heard of it. This card allows your Valentine to give any amount that you choose to whichever charity they want. Gifts can be printed as certificates or be given as plastic cards, often with the charity’s logo emblazoned on them.
Showing your Valentine that you care enough about their concerns to invest in them is extremely romantic. So do some research and see if his charity is among the hundreds represented on websites such as charitygiftcertificates.org, tisbest.org, and justgive.org. These stellar websites are doing so much to contribute to deserving nonprofits. Now you can help your Valentine contribute, too.
SHOPPING FOR CHARITY AT IGIVE.COM
Say you, like your Valentine, hate braving the stores looking for all the best deals in chic designer apparel and cutting edge technology. Well, now those deals are just a click away, so you can shop for that perfect Valentine’s Day gift from the comfort of your own computer. Just go to iGive.com and become a member. Signing up for membership is free and easy, and once you have logged in, you will have access to more than 700 brand name retailers and smaller stores, some that donate up to 14% of their profits to the charity of your choice. Whether you’re shopping for a new Nordstrom coat for him (or some new pajamas for you) or a flat screen HDTV from Best Buy, you’ll find it all at iGive.com.