By Andrea Allen

The holiday season is a time of giving. We’ll give gifts to our children, our parents, those cousins we see once-a-year, our co-workers, dog walkers, and of course, the odd gift to ourselves (because we deserve it after all). However it’s the season not just of giving gifts to our family and friends, it’s also the time when many of us contribute to our personal charities of choice. The malls just wouldn’t seem the same without a bell-ringer beside a Salvation Army red kettle or giant toy mountains waiting for our additions.  However, charitable donations of all varieties have been in decline over the last couple years due to the economic downtown. Sadly, it’s during these times that donations are most needed by the greatest number of people. In an effort to increase the value of a dollar, one suggestion would be to look for products that are not only great gifts, but also give back to society.

TOMS shoes is a company that will donate a pair of shoes to needy children all over the world for every pair purchased by a customer. You can feel confident that buying your kids a pair of TOMS shoes would put you in the “cool mom or dad” category and you can feel good knowing that your purchase helped someone in need. Similar to TOMS, Warby Parker is a stylish glasses company that for every pair of glasses purchased they will donate a pair to someone in need.

If you’re looking to deck out your special lady in some jewelry this Christmas, why not take a look at a Haitian hand-beaded necklace or a turquoise bracelet from Thailand. Available through World Vision, these and many other gifts can not only put a smile on a loved one’s face this Christmas, but can also contribute to the economic well-being of developing communities. There’s also iSanctuary.org that has a wide variety of beautiful pieces that are sure to impress even those hard-to-shop-for names on your holiday list.

There are even websites that allow consumers to choose the cause they would like to support through their purchase of gift items. Giftsthatgive.com is one such site where $1 for every $5 spent will be donated to the cause of your choice.

But what about the corporate world? Corporate charitable donations can also go the extra mile. As part of the ActiveCares program, Active can contribute funding to an organization’s CSR causes in return for a commitment of a portion of the company’s existing media, freight, or printing spend. Active’s Corporate Trade model allows our clients to leverage our services to benefit a cause without spending incremental dollars. So even if you or your company are strapped for cash and are considering scaling back your charitable contributions this season, consider using more creative ways to stretch those holiday dollars. It will certainly put you on Santa’s “good” list.