Last week, we introduced you to some of our favorite makers in the Holiday Gift Guide. When you buy from a small business, you are making a huge difference in the lives of that maker and the ones they love.
This week, we’d like to offer suggestions on ways to make a difference in the world at large. There are many fantastic people and organizations out there, working every day to improve the lives of people in need and to care for the world around us.
Here are five that you may not have heard about. Some are working globally and others focusing on a local scale. But they are each tackling big problems in some very creative ways.
It’s something we take for granted in the developed world. We walk to the tap, knowing that our water is clean and safe to drink. But for one out of every eleven human beings, water is scarce and clean water even more so.
The non-profit, charity: water, is dedicated to changing all that. They assess a community’s needs, terrain, and geography in order to provide them a tailored solution. It might be hand dug wells, a water purification system, or bio-sand filters. Clean water changes everything for the people who need it most.
In the wake of the disastrous Haiti earthquake in 2010, two women developed a compact, self-sustaining light source as part of their graduate work. What started as a means to assist refugees in tent cities has become a Give-One-Get-One program in the style of TOMS.
The lights are solar-powered, waterproof, and inflatable, providing up to 65 lumens for 12 hours or more. Plus, they pack flat, maximizing the number of lights that can be shipped by freight to remote communities in need.
Bead for Life
There are seemingly few opportunities for Ugandan women living in villages decimated by war and ravaged by extreme poverty. But given the right education, mentorship, and access, a woman can ignite her spark and change her world.
Bead for Life provides women with six months of entrepreneurial training and mentorship to help women start their own local small businesses. And the results speak for themselves. The average business failure rate in Uganda is 80%, but Bead for Life’s Street Business School has flipped that statistic on its head. Two years after graduating from the program, 81% of Bead for Life’s students are still in business!
You can also help to grow entrepreneurship a little closer to home with a community microlender. LiftFund works throughout the Southeastern U.S. to finance small businesses, nonprofits, commercial development, and affordable housing.
In addition to accepting donations as a non-profit institution, LiftFund offers the opportunity to become a socially responsible investor. For as little as $1,000, your investment can create jobs and stimulate the local economy in one of 13 states, all while providing you a small return.
So often, discussions about the environment can devolve into “pro-business/anti-business” camps. But Sustainable Conservation is finding a way to make environmental protection good for a business’ bottom-line. They collaborate with other non-profits, farmers, scientists, and governmental agencies to develop innovative solutions to difficult environmental problems.
Sustainable Conservation works in Central California, an area of intense agricultural production that is no stranger to environmental impact. Their current projects are tackling issues like water scarcity, clean air, invasive species, and waste management.
Donations, give-one-get-one, microlending, investment: there are many ways to make a difference this holiday season. And there’s one more benefit for the last-minute shopper. You don’t have to worry about shipping delays if you give the gift of financial support towards a worthy cause!