8 Great Charities
The gift: Payment of emergency expenses (such as the $92.70 that wasn't covered by insurance for a doctor visit) for a family without a financial cushion. The idea is to prevent a downward spiral into poverty that can result from a single unaffordable expense. Recipients are otherwise financially self-sufficient; requests for assistance are vetted.
Arbor Day Foundation (ArborDay.org)
The gift: Twenty-five thousand square feet of rainforest saved in Central America. Or 100 trees planted on the post-Katrina Gulf Coast or in national forests ravaged by wildfires. Reforestation doesn't just preserve ecosystems and restore wildlife habitats; a mature tree can store about one metric ton of CO2 emissions.