Photo-Illustration: The Strategist
There are lots of gifts out there that promise to give back, especially at a time when so many people are in need. Still, we’d understand if you’re skeptical of the whole “shop for a cause” shtick. While the case could be made that every little bit does help, if you’re looking to make every penny count, you’d probably be better off giving directly to a charity in your recipient’s name than buying them a $10 candle that claims to donate 2 percent of proceeds.
But if you’d rather give them a little something that has the added benefit of being charitable, we searched high and low for gifts that, according to their brands and retailers, give back to worthy causes. Read on for what we found, including a Yellowstone-themed fragrance set that helps the national park and a T-shirt that supports the U.N. Refugee Agency’s efforts in Ukraine. If you want to donate directly, we’ve also included links to the nonprofits and organizations these products help — or check out our guides to AAPI-focused organizations and groups supporting Black lives and communities of color.
Pampshade, best known for its bread lamps made from actual croissants, baguettes, and naans, is the creation of former baker Yuki Morita. Her latest launch is a “Peace Bread” made from paska, a traditional Eastern European Easter treat. All proceeds will go toward Peace Winds Japan’s humanitarian-aid work in Ukraine.
For the devoted NPR listener: Every purchase at its storefront goes to support programming. This mug comes in Planet Money green with a martini-holding squirrel.
This cutting board — which is made from plastic scraps — is a Strategist favorite, notably making an appearance in our guide to giving back to the AAPI community. But it doesn’t just help with making meals at home: Fifty percent of the profits from a beige shade called To Pó-Po With Love go to Heart of Dinner, which delivers food packages to Asian elders in New York City.
East Village eatery Veselka (probably most famous for its pierogi) is giving 100 percent of its in-store, takeout, and online borscht sales to help Ukraine, partnering with Razom for Ukraine, an organization that champions democracy in the country. The restaurant is also accepting nonmonetary donations such as first-aid kits and socks, which can be dropped off at its East 9th Street entrance.
If they struggle to keep their pantry stocked, a subscription to Thrive Market, which carries sustainable and organic products, may do the trick. The grocery company matches every paid membership with a free one to a student, teacher, veteran, first responder, or family in need (all of whom can apply here). You can even throw in an additional shopping credit, ranging from $25 to $200.
Cariumas make writer-director Nana Mensah feel like a cool kid, with a classic plimsoll shape that almost molds to her feet, keeps its form, and is easy to clean. But what makes the shoes even more special to her is the company’s sustainable philosophy: The pair is made from natural rubber and organic cotton, and sales help with the brand’s reforestation plan, which includes planting two trees in Brazil for every pair sold.
A crop of tomato scents has taken over the candle scene, and Flamingo Estate’s is beloved by Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo. The company is a member of 1% for the Planet, which partners brands with environmental nonprofits and plants a tree for every product sold. So not only does it smell of the earth — starting off citrusy and then ripe with a newly formed tomato-vine flavor, according to Corsillo — but helps the earth, too.
One of the latest launches from J.Hannah — the brand behind nail polish for the color-agnostic — this wick was created in cooperation with MADE by DWC, which is part of Los Angeles’s Downtown Women’s Center, and helps homeless women (and women who were formerly without housing) earn income and learn job skills. Plus, 10 percent of proceeds will be donated to DWC. The wax, which is hand-poured by women in the center, features notes of fig, bergamot, and peppered grapefruit.
Bespoke soap-maker Caswell-Massey earned a spot on our holiday list of gifts that give back for its Marie Antoinette–esque rose bath bar that benefits the New York Botanical Garden; the brand makes another appearance here for its fancy fragrance essences made in collaboration with Yellowstone Forever, which helps to preserve the national park. (Proceeds from the set go toward plant research and conservation.) The fragrances have Yellowstone-themed names like Old Faithful, with notes of pine smoke, and Canyon, a floral fusion.
Shocks of Love, which makes skin-care aromatherapy, has pledged five percent of profits from its flagship collection to Activation Residency, a residency program focused on supporting Black, brown, queer, and Indigenous artists. “Woo-Woo Me,” which we’ve written about before, is one of those signature scents, with woody top notes and black pepper and gardenia underneath.
Luxury site Olivela donates every time you shop — you can choose which charity your order helps (and learn about what your purchase is doing) from a list of the company’s featured cause partners. In addition to helping provide essential supplies to Save the Children, this Dr. Barbara Sturm serum would make for an indulgent skin-care staple — niacinamide smooths fine lines and wrinkles, according to Strategist beauty contributor Rio Viera-Newton. (It happens to be one of the brand’s more affordable serums, too.)
This lip balm gives back year-round, with F.Miller donating to a rotating list of nonprofits. In May, the minimalist skin-care label is contributing to Every Mother Counts, an organization dedicated to equitable maternity care.
This easy-to-carry balm, which boasts moisture-retaining ingredients like Nordic birch sap, is destined to become an on-the-go essential. Cocokind is donating 5 percent of all sales from this salve to One Tree Planted, a nonprofit that plants a tree for every dollar raised.
For the bookworm in your life, your best bet is Bookshop, which works in two ways to give back to local bookstores: You can donate the profits from your order to a store of your choice (as if you’d bought a title IRL) or add to a collective fund that is split among independent shops. (You can even see the total raised at the top of the site.) Stumped on what novel to get them? Pure Colour, released earlier this year, is “one of those books that kind of rewires your brain,” says Strategist writer Erin Schwartz.
Checkerboard print shows no signs of slowing down. This on-trend vase helps provide essential supplies for families in need as part of Olivela’s partnership with Save the Children.
Made by a collective of knitters using Andean Highlands wool from Peru, this cardigan features a delightful row of tortoiseshell buttons and a cable running along the sleeves. The sweater is also part of Loeffler Randall’s “For Good” line, with 10 percent of its purchase price going to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Streetwear brand Krost has made giving back part of its ethos, partnering with March for Our Lives, Eden Reforestation Projects, and the Australian Red Cross to create limited-edition collections. For its spring 2022 line, the label is donating to the New York Restoration Project, which is dedicated to providing New Yorkers with green space throughout the city. Fittingly, the pieces in this latest drop, including this T-shirt, are embroidered with tulips.
Buy anything from Clare V.’s collaboration with Every Mother Counts, and 30 percent of the purchase price will go to the nonprofit. This sweatshirt, which features the label’s signature red-lip print, has “liberté, égalité, maternité” lettering that translates to a more mom-centric take on the French motto. (There’s also a “Vive la Résistance” bandanna that supports Planned Parenthood, if you’re looking to gift a set.)
Every item on Social Goods donates to a particular cause, and this one is no exception. Designed by Prinkshop, which teams up with different nonprofits for campaigns, the 1973 sweatshirt honors the year Roe v. Wade was decided — and $10 from every sale is donated to the National Institute for Reproductive Health, which provides funds to state and local organizations fighting for reproductive health care.
Also from Prinkshop is this T-shirt, made with the colors of the Ukrainian flag. One hundred percent of the proceeds will be donated to the U.N. Refugee Agency, which is working to give emergency aid to families affected during the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. (If you want to help directly, our colleagues at the Cut put together this comprehensive — and continually updated — guide.)
Everpress has an entire section dedicated to AAPI creators in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Filipina artist Pia Roque designed this tee as an “ode to our oneness with the cosmos.” All of the profits from the shirt will be donated to Houseless Organization Coalition in Houston, which focuses on feeding and sharing supplies with those who are experiencing homelessness.
Jewelry label SVNR makes its wares from recycled and upcycled materials, so each of its designs is one of a kind, like this colorful necklace crafted from antique African trade beads. All of the net proceeds from it are donated to Building Black Bed-Stuy, a group that raises money for Black-owned businesses and organizations in the neighborhood.
This delicate heart-shaped pendant from Los Angeles–based jewelry label Adina Reyter features tiny pavé diamonds on one side and colorful enamel on the other. You can choose for half of the heart to be turquoise, green, pink, or yellow — symbolic, given that they’re the same shades used in the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles logo. Twenty percent of your purchase will be donated to the pediatric hospital.
With so many violent crimes making headlines right now, gifting this lucite ring that doubles as a personal-safety accessory may help your beloved recipient feel safer. Five percent of profits go to SAVI, short for the Mount Sinai Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Program, which supports survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
This mother-of-pearl token is emblazoned with a line from a letter Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote to fellow former Supreme Court justice William Brennan. For each one sold, Catbird will donate $10 to the Women’s Prison Association, an organization focused on helping women impacted by incarceration. If you wanted to zhuzh it up more, you could (for an additional cost) include one of the brand’s barely there gold chains.
This over-easy-egg-shaped earring features sterling silver for the egg white and a citrine stone for the yolk, and it comes with a matching ball post. Ten percent of this metaphorical set is donated to Planned Parenthood.
For jet-setting giftees, this flower-embroidered jewelry case features a compartment just for rings and a little mirror for try-ons. (It’s pretty enough that it’ll probably end up as permanent dresser décor.) The jewelry case is part of Olivela’s partnership with humanitarian-aid organization Save the Children, with a portion of the purchase price going toward providing essential supplies to families in need.
This dad hat features a cheekier version of that famous “This is Your Brain on Drugs” ad. Fifteen percent of proceeds from the hat are directed to the WPA. (You can cop the matching T-shirt, too.)
Parks Project partnered with Igloo for a collection that supports the National Parks Conservation Association. This cooler features a ’70s-inspired graphic on the lid with the words “Feel the Earth breathe” and is made from recycled yogurt cups and milk jugs. It can hold 30 12-ounce cans to tote along on picnic days and stargazing nights.
Parks Project also partnered with Outdoor Afro, a not-for-profit organization focused on “Black connections and leadership in nature.” The brightly colored bandanna features a checkerboard border that will peek through even when tied around their neck.
When we asked chefs for their favorite aprons, Hedley & Bennett’s were among the most raved about. This take on its best-selling Essential Apron was made in partnership with the Conservation Alliance, which fights to protect wild places and wildlife across North America. The aprons in this hand-drawn, limited-edition collection give back to the alliance, including this one inspired by Yosemite National Park’s granite-laden landscape.
Bombas describes this color-blocked set as reminiscent of Neapolitan ice cream, so it’ll be a colorful addition to any sock drawer. Like all of the brand’s socks, these help those who are homeless, in need, or at risk. For every pair sold, a pair is donated.
As part of a charity drive, a collective of photographers is selling limited-edition prints. All of the profits from the pieces, which cost $100 each, will be donated to Save the Children’s Ukrainian relief efforts to aid with food, water, hygiene kits, and more.
Made in Chinatown works with small businesses in the neighborhood to create custom merchandise, like this pillow that features a colorful illustration of the legendary institution Wing On Wo & Co.’s counter. Profits will go toward the store, which is the oldest one in Chinatown.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.