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Time to share with the group?

Jemima Thackray

Overdid it at the mall this year? Jemima Thackray reviews what charities were selling in 2014 as a guide to making it better from here.



Tearfund offers two ways to support its work overseas. The first is to buy a virtual gift, with the recipient receiving a certificate to explain how his or her gift has been spent. The other is to buy a Fairtrade gift through Tearfund's partner organisation 'Created' (the new name for Tearcraft), which provides a sustainable income for artisan groups in ten developing countries.

Top for individuals: Created's best-selling item is a bike-chain photo-frame with an antique-copper finish, £11. Its popularity has soared in line with the growth of the "mamil" (middle-aged men in Lycra) population in the UK. The frame is made by the craft organisation Noah's Ark, in Moradabad, India, which employs only local artisans.

Top group gift: Tearfund's's flagship alternative- giving project 'Toilet Twinning' has become a popular group gift. For £60, an individual or group can twin their lavatory with a latrine in a developing country, providing a safe and hygienic facility for a community, and reducing the spread of disease. Tearfund also offers twinnings with school latrine blocks for £240. Each twinned lavatory is awarded a certificate with a photo of its counterpart latrine, and its exact GPS co-ordinates.



In its mission to serve the most disadvantaged people in the lands of the Bible, Embrace the Middle East (formerly known as BibleLands) uses funds from both its real gifts, and its alternative-gift catalogue, to fund health, education, and community-development programmes in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt. Currently, it is also assisting with the provision of food to internally displaced people in Syria.

Top for individuals: Embrace's's most popular gift supports the provision of literacy classes for women in Egypt, where women and girls make up 60 percent of the illiterate population, and educating females is often seen as unnecessary. The gift 'Words for Women', £15, equips Embrace's partner-agency Think And Do to provide its 'life school', which educates disadvantaged women aged 15 to 25 in reading, writing, and human and political rights.

Top group gift: Medical gifts are the most popular group choice. Many are moved by the fact that while we have a national health service in the UK, the poorest cannot access health care in other parts of the world. Most groups pick the £111 "operational procedures" gift, which supports a hospital based in Bethlehem that funds essential operations, or courses of treatment, for people facing sickness or disability.



Present Aid Christian Aid's ethical-gift selection, has been running since 2005, and has raised more than £16 million to help some of the world's poorest communities. There are more than 50 different gifts on the website to choose from, but its supporters seem to like goats best.

Top for individuals: More than 23,000 virtual goats have been gifted - particularly to children and animal- lovers - since Present Aid began. A single goat costs £19, and this donation goes towards Christian Aid's 'agriculture and livestock fund', one of six types of work that the charity carries out through its partner networks. Out of this fund, Christian Aid buys goats to give to people in poor communities, particularly those living with HIV, providing an income through selling goats' milk.

Top group gift: Christian Aid supporters cannot get enough of goats; a herd is also the charity's best-selling group gift, which can be bought for £76.



THE Anglican charity Us.- formerly USPG - works mainly through its partners in Anglican Churches around the world to improve health, educate children, tackle discrimination, and give a voice to women.

Top for individuals: The charity's 'Life-giving Gifts' have a top value of £50, and so are mainly aimed at individuals. Two gifts that have proved enduringly popular involve the provision of education for children, and training for church leaders. This year's newly branded gifts are: "A Place in School", £8; and 'Train a Leader', £12. Health-care gifts, however, pip even these two to the post. The 'Care for Mums and Babies' package, £16, goes towards training midwives, maternal education, and helping prevent the passing of HIV from mother to child.



Send a Cow provides African families with livestock and training in farming, alongside courses in subjects such as gender equality and conflict resolution. Every family that receives a gift promises to pass on a gift to another family in need, starting a chain of giving.

Top for individuals: Research suggests that education plays a critical part in breaking the cycle of poverty, which is probably why the 'Educate a Child' gift, £25, is a big seller. Gift donations are channelled towards the agricultural programme, and most families send children to school within a few months of receiving a cow, often paying school fees in milk.

Top group gift: What else could Send a Cow's number- one group gift be, other than a dairy cow? A cow can produce 3000 litres of milk a year for a family, which provides nutrition, ample manure for their land, and a steady source of income from the sale of surplus milk. The £750 price tag for a dairy cow also funds the provision of training in animal husbandry, nutrition, veterinary care, and shelter for the animal.



Traidcraft works to tackle poverty through trade. It combines a trading company and a development charity, which means that supporters can either buy a physical item that supports its artisan makers, or purchase a virtual 'Gifts For Life' to support Traidcraft's development work.

Top for individuals: One of the charity's artisan partners is Gospel House, based in Sri Lanka, which employs women who used to work in poor conditions in clothing factories. Gospel House produces a brightly coloured hand-carved elephant jigsaw, £8, which is an ideal gift for children.

Top group gift: Traidcraft's's 'More Than Just Connecting Communities' is hugely popular with school and church groups. Its aim is to support an entire neighbourhood, and one recent project helped Kenyan farmers diversify their incomes by keeping bees. This costs £150, and groups receive materials to encourage their fund-raising efforts.



Save the Children works to protect children in 120 countries around the world. Its 'Wish List' range enables supporters to choose gifts by theme, from 'weddings' to 'newborns'. Save the Children is transparent about the fact that, when a gift is purchased, the money is always spent on the 'theme' of the programme, but not always on the specific item.


Top for individuals: By far the most popular gift is 'Winter Clothes for a Child,' £10. One of the uses of this fund is to help children who live in places such as Tibet and Mongolia, where temperatures can drop below -40˚C during severe winters.

Top for groups: One of the most novel and popular alternative group gifts is a Camel Library for £190. These have been introduced in Ethiopia, and are an innovative way of reaching children in remote parts of the country, who often receive no formal education. The camels carry trunks of books around the desert, giving children the chance regularly to borrow reading material.



World Vision is the largest international children's charity specialising in child-sponsorship and -development projects. Their 'Must Have Gifts' range from a TB-screening kit for £6 to a roof for a clinic, costing £1600. All World Vision gifts are real items, and are given directly to those in need.

Top for individuals: Goats have done it again. World Vision's most popular indivdual gift is a kid goat for £19, donated to families in Zimbabwe. Recurring drought there has meant that many farmers struggle to feed their children; a kid provides not only milk and cheese, but security and income, as it can be bred sold, or used for meat.

Top for groups: Gift 'bundles' are an attractive way for a group of supporters to buy several items at once. World Vision's 'Education Bundle' is its bestselling collective purchase, providing stationery for a school, a children's miniature library, five school uniforms, and two scholarships for children from struggling families, all for £116.



Good Gifts is the trading name for the Charities Advisory Trust. This network enables it to offer a vast array of gifts, from a bicycle for a midwife to a seaside holiday for a British family. Good Gifts also believes that your money should buy the actual gift; so supporters can target their charitable giving.

Top for individuals: Healthcare and children's work are the areas that receive most public support. A combination of the two makes up its bestselling gift for individuals: a £27 operation to restore a child's sight - a simple procedure to help those who suffer.

Top for groups: In the 'Gifts for Booklovers' offering, the gifts range from a year's supply of books for a child to funding an entire library in India. The latter is Good Gifts' most popular group gift: schools, church groups, and businesses can buy all the books and furniture, and pay for a librarian's salary for two years for £1250.