10 Smart Kickstarter Projects for Your Holiday Cash

You could get your pal these charming vintage Cabbage Patch Kids earmuffs for Christmas. Or...not.Image by Etsy

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It’s not like there’s any shortage of awesome stuff to foist upon your friends and family this holiday season. For example: Maybe they want this irrational numbers wall clock or a pair of leg corsets. And who could resist a wine-bottle holder shaped like a drunken deer?

But just in case you’re a mean old scrooge who doesn’t believe your relatives deserve this statue of a disembodied hand cradling a naked baby with wings, here’s another idea: Support a DIY project that your giftee might find cool. Crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo make it easy to find worthy campaigns. Here are 10 of our favorites:

1. Project Repat (Kickstarter): An astounding 95 percent of donated clothes end up in the developing world,* where many end up getting thrown away. The Project Repat crew rescues the old clothes, then works with artisans in the developing world to transform them into new hipster fashion statements to be sold in the United States. The proceeds go to charities in the countries where the clothes made their stopover.

2. Pop-Hop Books & Curio (Kickstarter): Considering the dire plight of independent bookstores, perhaps the bookworm in your life would appreciate a donation on her behalf to this new books/zines/collectibles store and arts space in LA. 

3. Biket Initiative (IndieGoGo) This cool project eventually aims to bring bamboo bike factories to the developing world, but in the meantime, it’s giving bikes to children who have no other way of getting to school. Your donation of $50 buys a bike for a kid in Mali.

4. Everyone Is Gay (IndieGoGo): In its own words, Everyone Is Gay is “an advice website for all, with an emphasis on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) youth. The website uses humor and honesty to support these youth, to dialogue with others in the LGBTQ community, and to simultaneously keep everyone laughing.” Your donation will help EIG launch a nationwide tour to high school and college campuses.

5. The First 70 (Kickstarter): By July 2012, the state of California plans to close 70 of its 278 state parks. Saddened by the news, a group of friends decided to try to see all the parks before they were gone for good. Along the way, they discovered that “no one knew exactly what the conditions of closure would be, nor could they see how the state would ultimately benefit.” As a result, they’re aiming to make a documentary film in a bid to change the officials’ mind.

6. Behind the Smokescreen (Emphas.is): Since 2008, Italian photojournalist Rocco Rorandelli has been traveling the globe to document every part of the cigarette life cycle, from farm to factory to convenience store shelf to smokers’ back pockets. So far, his project has taken him to India,  China, and Indonesia; next on his list is the good old USA. “I plan to document various aspects of the industry: from farming issues including child labor and immigration, to the facilities of the tobacco giants like Philip Morris, to the cultural links that persist in American society between people and the tobacco industry,” he writes. Your donation will help Rocco experience Marlboro Country firsthand.

7. Freight Farms (Kickstarter): This startup aims to build “modular, expandable, portable crop production units that can quickly and easily grow food ANYWHERE.” Powered by solar panels and irrigated by reclaimed water, these portable farms are mostly self-sustaining. It’s not hard to see how they could really come in handy in a food desert. Your donation will help get the first freight farms up and running. 

8. Soul Food Junkies (Kickstarter): In 2004, filmmaker Byron Hurt found out his dad had pancreatic cancer. Hurt suspected that his dad’s high-fat, meat-heavy diet was partially to blame, so he decided to make a documentary about his dad’s cuisine of choice: soul food. “Through candid interviews with soul food cooks, historians, and scholars, as well as doctors, family members, and everyday people, Soul Food Junkies blends history, humor, and heartwarming stories to place this culinary tradition under the microscope. Both the consequences and the benefits of soul food are carefully addressed. So too is the issue of low access to quality food in black communities, which makes it difficult for some black people to eat healthy.” Maybe you know a foodie who’d like to see this movie get made. 

9. Holiday Hope for Survivors (Just Detention International): This one’s 100 percent free! Simply type in a holiday message of hope that you’d like to send to a victim of sexual abuse, and JDI will handwrite it onto a card and send it to someone who needs it.

10. Bay Area Urban Debate League (IndieGoGo): Help a high school kid in the San Francisco Bay Area learn to debate. Your gift of $20 supplies a debater-in-training with “files, timers, tubs to store the evidence they research by hand, and more”; $100 “gets a team of students out to a tournament who otherwise couldn’t make it, helping them their skills against some of the brightest minds in the Bay Area.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that 95 percent of clothes donated specifically to Goodwill end up in the developing world. The sentence has been corrected.


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