11/28/2012 01:04 pm ET Updated Jan 28, 2013

Making A Difference: The World of Giving -- Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday... Giving Tuesday?


The holiday gift-giving season generally starts after Thanksgiving as we watch the advertisements offering the best deals on popular toys, electronics, furniture, clothing -- you name it. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are supposed to be the Holy Grail of deal-finding days, but the latest phenomenon looks to change our approach to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Giving Tuesday (#GivingTuesday) aims to create a national day of giving to start the holiday season and what a great way to jump into this time of year! The goal is to inspire donations and charitable activities to support nonprofit organizations on November 27th (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving).

Not sure what to get a friend, family member or that "hard to shop for" person in your life, try looking in a charitable gift catalog. Charitable gift catalogs are becoming more popular every year and are a relatively easy way for individuals to do their holiday gift shopping while serving a larger good. Charitable gift catalogs are also a great way to participate in Giving Tuesday and cross someone off your holiday gift list. Here are five (5) of the most popular charitable gift catalogs to consider when searching for gifts for folks on your list:

1. UNICEF's Inspired Gifts Program -- Purchase items such as mosquito nets, tetanus vaccines and water pumps to support UNICEF's goal of saving children from dying from preventable causes.
2. Heifer International -- Give meaningful gifts like sheep, goats or pigs to help people become self-reliant as well as ending hunger and eliminating poverty.
3. -- The GiveNow card is an excellent gift idea! The purchaser chooses the value and the recipient chooses which charity they would like the donation to be given.
4. Outreach International -- There is an entire catalog to search for the perfect Giving Tuesday present! Sustainable gifts provide the less fortunate with food as well as the tools and skills to continue success.
5. Defenders of Wildlife -- An excellent gift idea for the animal lover in your life! Adopt a polar bear, blue whale or elephant in the name of someone else with a card and sometimes a small gift token being sent to the recipient.

If you are unsure about using charitable gift catalogs below are five (5) tips to incorporate charitable gift ideas giving during the holidays! By doing this you will be Making A Difference® (M.A.D.) and if you start on Giving Tuesday you will be providing movement to this effort.

1. Peruse your favorite nonprofit websites on Giving Tuesday! Many of them are participating in this special day of awareness and offering creative ways to be supportive.
2. Use charitable gift catalogs for some of your holiday purchases; you can check them out online or request that one be sent to you.
3. Have a discussion during the weeks leading up to holidays with your family and friends about changing the gift giving traditions in your family doing something with a charitable aspect! You might be surprised at the enthusiastic response!
4. At this time of year, many school-aged children are often required to sell items from gift catalogs to support their school.
5. Consider setting a personal goal to do something every holiday with a charitable aspect to it. You cold volunteer monthly; help a friend by providing a meal monthly; babysit a neighbor's children for an afternoon; shovel snow from an elderly person's sidewalk; visit a senior citizens center... the list of ideas can go on and on!

Bonus Tip: Charitable gift-giving shouldn't just be limited to the December holiday season! Consider making a commitment to give all your gifts this year with a charitable aspect to them! Use Fair Trade USA ( as a starting point to learn how every purchase matters.

Some might say Giving Tuesday is just an effort for the charitable world to get in on commercial sector's success during the last month of the year. They might argue there is no value in the things being offered by nonprofit organizations or the person receiving a card stating that a gift has been made in their name. Even the comedy show Seinfeld did an episode about the character George Costanza using such a means to get out of the typical office gift exchange by faking a donation to The Human Fund that was later found out to not exist. I would counter by stating that nonprofits are businesses that happen to have a tax exempt status, so they should participate in this season of purchasing and giving!

This is the inaugural year for Giving Tuesday, so let's start Making A Difference® (M.A.D.) and give those who might be tired of the commercial shopping opportunities an alternative. What will you do to be M.A.D. on Giving Tuesday?