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Giving while giving: Gift something charitable this Christmas

Buying Christmas gifts from a charity ticks all those boxes and adds one more

Back in the Celtic Tiger era we heard a lot about conspicuous consumption. Today, thankfully, there is a much greater emphasis on considered purchasing.

We’re more likely to buy less but better. We’re keener to know the provenance of our purchases. And we’re more conscious of the importance of the circular economy.

Buying Christmas gifts from a charity ticks all those boxes and adds one more; it’s a gift to your loved one that also sends help to someone, somewhere, in need.

“This is a very important time of the year for charities, a time when many of them will raise the bulk of their funds,” says Ivan Cooper, chief executive of The Wheel, the national association of community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises.


There are lots of ways you can help, including buying from a local charity shop. Not only do these perform a vital fund-raising role for charities, but they reduce the risk of good quality but unwanted items ending up as waste. “Charity shops are also an important element of most communities,” says Cooper.

A third option is to buy from an ecommerce that helps connect consumers with purposeful gifts. These include Thriftify.ie, which showcases goods from charities around the country, and BuySocial.ie, which enables you to support social enterprises.

Another great option is WeMakeGood.ie, which has a terrific range of homewares and gift items handmade by skilled makers facing social challenges.

Many charities provide the option of buying a gift directly from them, in the form of life-enhancing support. Trócaire was one of the first charities here to launch this option, Gifts of Change, back in 2000. Since then it has sold more than one million gifts.

These range from a Family Survival Kit, which costs €35 and provides families caught up in conflict with emergency dignity kits and food baskets; €20 provides an emergency jerry can of water with purification tablets, while €50 will buy someone a milk-producing goat.

“Instead of commercialism and excess, people are able to buy an ethical and sustainable gift that actually helps someone else,” says David O’Hare, communication officer at Trócaire. “People are becoming a lot more cognisant of what they buy, where it comes from and what it is going to be used for.”

Trócaire, which next year marks its 50th anniversary, has gifts categorised under such themes as climate, education and water. It has a wide spread of price points, which means there is something to fit all budgets.

A fiver will buy someone in a crisis situation a bar of soap. “We all now know, post-Covid, how soap can help save lives by stopping the spread of infectious diseases,” says O’Hare.

At the other end of the price scale is a solar-powered water pump, designed to facilitate a whole community, for €1,400.

All the gifts it offers are sourced locally in the country of use, so they benefit local businesses too.

In developing its gifts range the charity works on a partnership basis with organisations on the ground, whose people are embedded in the communities they serve. “People tell us what they need, not the other way around,” he explains.

Right now Gaza is a huge concern for the international community. Trócaire’s Gift of Family Essentials, which is already helping people in need in Ethiopia, South Sudan and Ukraine, will aid Palestinians in desperate circumstances too.

Here in Ireland, many will find Christmas a financial challenge. “Families who were already struggling before inflated prices face even more severe consequences in last few years as a compacted impact of the pandemic and the cost-of-living rise,” says Halina McNabb, corporate fund-raising executive at Barnardos.

“As prices rise, few of us can escape the increased pressure on our budgets and finances, but some families are facing some very dire decisions indeed, such as what can they give their children to eat that will feed them and use the least amount of energy for example.”

Many were already struggling to cover the cost of food, heat and light and must now choose between essentials. “Families are having to decide, should we eat and suffer the cold? Or pay for some electricity and miss a couple of meals?” she says.

The level of need in Ireland cannot be underestimated, with 90,000 children living in consistent poverty in Ireland in 2022, according to the Central Statistics Office.

Barnardos provided 20,838 people with a wide range of supports last year, from practical to emotional. “We know the public in Ireland are so generous and they look to buy gifts with impact. Now, in the run-up to Christmas, every euro counts in helping us give every child a happy Christmas,” says McNabb.

Here too there are many ways you can help, including a financial gift, which helps Barnardos to provide targeted, crisis intervention support, including food, clothes and gifts for vulnerable children.

You can buy one of its Gifts for Good online, practical presents ranging from warm pyjamas to a healthy, nutritious meal. The range is priced from €18 to €65, with a special care bundle option comprising five gifts for good for €100.

Belleek Pottery is donating €1 from the sale of some of its ornaments to Barnardos, and you can help by tuning in to Christmas FM and supporting its appeal, she adds.

Choose your Christmas cards wisely too. You can buy Barnardo’s Christmas cards at Aldi stores, or online at Hallmark. Businesses have the option of sending a company e-card with Barnardos, in lieu of corporate cards or gifts.

“This lets your customers know how you are combining your sustainability efforts with your social and community support, by helping children and families across Ireland,” she says.

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times