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How to adopt a family for Christmas — and other ways to give back this holiday season

'Tis the season to give! Pay it forward by donating to one of these organizations.

For many, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. But for those who are struggling, it can be difficult to get into the spirit of the season. 

If you have the means, a donation to a charitable organization, whether it’s time, money or goods, can spread Christmas cheer to those who need it most. But with so many nonprofit organizations to choose from, how do you know which one will help your donation get to its rightful recipient?

Rick Cohen, chief communications officer and chief operating officer of National Council of Nonprofits, recommends using the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search Tool to verify an organization’s good standing. (Tip: Don’t include apostrophes or other punctuation when entering name in the tool.)

“It’s important to get to know a nonprofit before you donate,” Cohen tells “You don’t want to donate right away to an organization that reaches out to you out of the blue.”

Once you’ve confirmed the organization is legitimate, look at its impact and how the work is done. “Do not get hung up trying to find the organization that spends the least on overhead,” Cohen says. “That is not the best measure of efficiency, and underinvesting in overhead actually makes a nonprofit less effective.”

Above all, look for a charity whose mission aligns with yours. “With 1.3 million nonprofits to choose from, it’s best to do your research and find the one that best matches the impact you want to make," Cohen adds.

Below, we've rounded up a number of ways to give back this holiday season, including how to adopt a family for Christmas. No matter what you decide to do, all of these organizations will be grateful for you and the gifts received.

How to adopt a family for Christmas

The following organizations help fulfill the Christmas wishes of an entire family this season. 

How to donate toys to kids

Letters to Santa might go unanswered without your help. Here are some organizations that make it their mission for children all over to have a happy Christmas morning.

Other ways to give back this holiday season

Is there an organization you’ve donated to other times of the year? Be sure to see what special initiatives or fundraisers they might be offering during the holidays. Here are some to consider.

  • Boys & Girls Club: Reach out to the local chapter of this national organization to see how you can help during the holidays.
  • Cradles to Crayons Giving Factory Direct: Ship new or gently used outfits directly to children in need. 
  • Move for Hunger: Moving? This organization will collect your unused food and bring it to a local food pantry.
  • Philanthropy Together: Find a giving circle to join or create your own.
  • Project Linus: Make a one-time or recurring donation to, as the organization puts it, "spread blanket hugs nationwide."
  • Salvation Army: The red kettles come out during the holiday season, but there are always other initiatives happening.

Don’t forget about the local businesses and organizations you frequent throughout the year. There’s a good chance they’ll be hosting their own holiday fundraisers or toy collections.

  • Assisted living centers and senior communities
  • Cafes and restaurants
  • Churches
  • Community centers
  • Doctors’ offices and hospitals
  • Libraries
  • Local politicians’ offices
  • Malls and retail outlets
  • Police and fire departments
  • Real estate agencies
  • Schools, day care centers, and after-school programs
  • Sports and recreational organizations