Charity Gift Catalogues.  So Much Choice…How to Pick the Best Christmas Charity Gift

Greg Thomson

December 16, 2014

updated October 27, 2016

The charity gift catalogues are arriving in the mail, and you are calling in with questions. What's better? To buy a goat or a soccer ball? Maternal health or biscuits? Charity gift catalogues showcase dozens of gifts. Some of these are nice gifts, some of these gifts are proven to save lives. 

Charity Intelligence looks for demonstrated impact when choosing which charities we recommend, so to understand the demonstrated impact of international aid programs, we looked at studies compiled to help evaluate development projects. The best evidence we’ve found is the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab  (J-PAL) (, and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) (

If you are looking through the gift catalogues, we recommend these Best Buy items found to be most effective in J-PAL and IPA impact research:

Deworming medication: If you want to help kids attend school, deworming medication has proven to be 20 to 700 times more cost effective than scholarships, uniforms and direct cash transfers in increasing school attendance in southern Africa.

Best Buy: UNICEF’s “anti-infection” tablets, $20 for 450, $0.04 per pill. The tablets  protect children from worms and potentially deadly intestinal infections. 

 Here's a link to buy UNICEF's deworming tablets

Insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs): Trials found that ITN bed nets are highly effective in reducing childhood mortality, saving 5.5 lives each year for every 1,000 children protected (an 18% reduction in mortality) at a cost of roughly $500 per life saved. When shopping for mosquito nets, buy ones that are “long-lasting, insecticide-treated”. These product modifications came out more than 5 years ago and are the best in stopping malaria. Sadly, the gift catalogues do not always provide donors with the product specifications – we’re assuming that the international aid charities have adopted these best practices.

Best Buy: Mosquito Nets: UNICEF insecticide-treated bed net, 3 bed nets for $10

Here's a link to buy UNICEF's best deal on bed nets

2016 Gift Catalogue Prices offered by highly-rated Canadian international development charities with gift catalogues offering deworming pills and/or bed nets.

Prices in C$


Charity Deworming pills Bed nets
Christian Children's Fund of Canada      17.50
Compassion Canada   10
ERDO     10
FH Canada    25
Plan International    10
Save the Children    40 - family sized 

UNICEF - Ci Best Buy

450 pills for $20 3 for $10
World Renew   13
World Vision stocking a medical clinic for $100 15



Chlorine dispensers for safe water: The evidence-based research also highlights the impact of chlorine dispensers. Free access to chlorine dispensers at local water sources was found to significantly increase access to safe water and reduce diarrhea in children, saving lives and reducing early child mortality.

Some gift catalogues offer water purification tablets. The research states that these are frequently used improperly and only a third as effective as chlorine dispensers at the well.



Previously posted in December 2014 - interesting to see some price changes

Below is a listing of Canada’s major international aid charities that publish gift catalogues offering bed nets at various prices and 2 offer an item that includes deworming pills. While a number contain water provision and sanitation, none specifically notes the use of chlorine dispensers. Hopefully, as more donors ask more questions about these gifts and their effectiveness, the charities will provide more details.



Another popular option for donors is child sponsorship. When giving to a charity through child sponsorship, it is important to understand that many sponsorship programs do not target an individual child, rather they benefit his or her entire community. In fact, Charity Intelligence estimates that over 80% of child sponsorship dollars donated in Canada goes towards community-related programs rather than being directed to an individual child. With these charities, the sponsorship concept is more of a fundraising approach for a broader development initiative. However, if your interest is in finding a direct relationship, some charities do offer this.

Most child sponsorship programs offer the choice of which country you would like to sponsor a child in. In Ci's view, the ideal country for maximizing the potential impact of donor dollars would have low development (high need) and low corruption (higher chance that donated funds reach their intended purpose), what we have called the “low-low” countries. We examined countries from around the world and found 14 countries that fall in the chosen low-low target area, all located in sub-Saharan Africa.

Below we have listed the major child sponsorship charities and the low-low countries where they have sponsored children or communities.


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