Giving donations is a great idea for those hard to shop forAre you truly strapped for a gift idea for that tricky-to-buy-for person on your list? Rather than go the route of a gift card or bottle of wine, try giving donations; it’s truly a gift that keeps giving.

A number of new, innovative programs make it easier than ever to donate on someone’s behalf. No longer will you have to write up a card that says: “A donation was made in your name to…” Instead, these newer programs allow you to present donations in a more festive style.

Here’s some programs out there you might like to try this gift-giving season, or check out this guide when choosing a worthy cause:

Donate to Poverty: UEnd: Poverty

This Calgary-based program lets you buy gift cards online. The recipient of the card can then choose from a huge list of poverty-ending projects to donate the money to. That person can keep track of the program and subscribe to UEnd’s newsletter, or just donate the money with no strings attached.

Giving Back to Nature: WWF

The World Wildlife Fund has long been the leader in helping us make gift donations that have real meaning. When you do something like offer $100 to keep a polar bear cool, the company gives you a certificate for the “giver.” You can also “adopt” an animal through this organization: the adoptee gets an adoption pack that includes a plush toy. (This one for a giant panda is pretty cute.

Nourish the Needy: Food for the Hungry

This group does those “buy a goat” type programs to help provide sustainable food solutions for a family, village or school. For $25, for instance, you can purchase a pair of chickens for a family in the developing world and FH will let you print out a gift card recognizing the purchase (the recipient doesn’t have to do anything – the donation is already made).

The Gift of Survival: Unicef

These donations go a long to helping the plight of children in developing countries. A $50, for example, can go toward a First Responder Kit, providing essential vaccines, medications, water purification tablets and nutritional aids where they’re needed most. Thirty dollars will buy a Literacy Pack, bringing the promise of education to a child. Again, you can choose to mail or email a gift card to your recipient.

How Charitable Giving Benefits You

Along with giving a charitable donation instead of just a regular old gift, most of these organizations give you a tax receipt as well. Some email you the receipt right away, but some smaller organizations will wait until February and mail out all their receipts at once. Read the fine print (often the FAQs) to get those details before you donate. To be able to offer a receipt, an organization must have a charitable registration number. (Other groups such as amateur athletic associations and arts groups can issue receipts too, see a general list here.

If you are a big donator to charity, the savings can be considerable. If you give just $500 a year to charity, for instance, you can earn roughly $200 in tax credits, depending on the province you live in. You get even higher credits when you donate more: (Use this handy charitable tax credit calculator to find out precise numbers.) If you don’t donate much one year but a lot another, you can collect up your receipts and clam them all in one year: all charitable receipt can be carried foreword for up to five years.

Charitable gift programs let you solve two problems at once: what to give to family and friends and how to be more charitable. Try it at least once this year.