Meets pressing community needs by mobilizing caring New Yorkers in volunteer service.

Winter Wishes FAQ

When the time comes for wish granting, volunteers take on the role of holiday elves. Find out important dates for the program, how the magic happens, gift suggestions, and much more.


Winter Wishes Resources

About Winter Wishes

What is Winter Wishes?

Each year, New York Cares partners with hundreds of our Community Partners, including homeless shelters, public schools, and other deserving nonprofit organizations, to provide holiday gifts for children, teens, and seniors, many of whom would not otherwise receive gifts during the holidays.

To accomplish this, we collect and screen more than 35,000 gift requests and send them to volunteers who purchase and send the gifts to our Community Partners. All of our Community Partners are registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations, government agencies, or public schools registered with the New York City Department of Education.

How can I support Winter Wishes?

There are many ways to support the Winter Wishes program -- spread the word, register to fulfill a wish, volunteer for a letter sorting project, donate financially -- or all four!

  • Spread the wordTweet, share, post about Winter Wishes and encourage your networks to get involved, using #WinterWishes. Make sure to tag us! Instagram: @nycares | Facebook: | Twitter: @newyorkcares.
  • Register to fulfill a wish: Sign up as an individual or recruit friends, family, colleagues, or neighbors to grant Winter Wishes. Registration opens in mid-October.
  • Volunteer for a letter sorting project: Sign up for an upcoming letter sorting session. Opportunities are available on select Saturdays and weekdays in October. 
  • Donate to spread the holiday cheerMake an online gift here to help the program continue to fulfill wishes all across the city.

Granting Wishes

How do I sign up to grant a wish?

Sign up as an individual or recruit a team of friends, family, colleagues, or neighbors to grant Winter Wishes. You can register beginning October 22.

I’m leading a team for Winter Wishes and I want to make sure everyone gets a gift, but it’s hard to keep track of everything! Have any advice?

Indeed we do! The easiest way to keep track of who on your team is responsible for which letters is to download and use our tracking form.

I signed up to grant a wish online. How soon can I start shopping?

Volunteer gift givers are matched with their letter 8 to 10 business days after signing up. Once you are matched, you will be able to see the most important information from your letter (name, age, gender, and gift request) on your New York Cares account under “Upcoming Projects.” This makes it easy for you to get a jump on your shopping while waiting for the physical letter to arrive in the mail, which typically takes 3-5 business days after being matched.

Once I get the letter, what happens if I have questions about the request?

Each letter comes labeled with the name and tracking number of the individual who wrote it and the name, number and email address of a contact person at the Community Partner with which they are affiliated. You can reach out to this person with any questions you may have about the gift request.

I don’t keep up with the latest trends in toys and games. How will I know what to buy?

You will receive a letter that contains a specific gift request.  Most requests are for gifts priced $40 or less, not including shipping.  If the request is for a gift priced over $40, or proves hard to find, you can refer to our suggested gift lists – for children, teens, and seniors – for ideas. There is no minimum amount you are required to spend, and you are only expected to purchase one gift. Lastly, please refrain from purchasing gifts that are religious in nature.

OK, now I’ve got the gift. Where and when do I send it?

Your letter will include the recipient's first name, delivery address, delivery date (early December in most cases), and a tracking number.

Please send wrapped gifts directly to the delivery address, and write the recipient's tracking number and first name on the outside of the wrapping paper. Include the same shipping and tracking information when sending gifts purchased online. It is important that you indicate the tracking number on the outside of the gift so that it does not need to be unwrapped to identify the correct recipient.

Should I mail or hand deliver my gift(s)?

Gifts may be mailed or hand-delivered to the agency. New York Cares does not pay for shipping, so please keep this expense in mind. If you personally deliver the gift(s), please deliver during the agency’s open hours. You can confirm your agency’s open hours by contacting the agency’s main contact phone number or email address included with your letter. 

How can I promote Winter Wishes and share about the program?

We want to hear about your shopping adventures, your gift wrapping events, and your top donors! Just let us know by emailing or find us on: Instagram: @nycares,, Twitter: @newyorkcares, Tag us using #WinterWishes and we’ll help spread the good news!

Is my gift tax-deductible? And can I get a receipt?

Yes and yes! The value of any gift you donate is tax deductible, and you can download a receipt here. Please note: New York Cares does not appraise gifts. Values are assigned by the donor up.

Requesting Gifts

My organization is interested in applying for Winter Wishes this year. Can any organization apply?

As our organization continues to evolve in meeting our mission to connect New Yorkers to meaningful volunteer opportunities and to deepen relationships with our existing Community Partners, our outreach efforts for the Winter Wishes application focus primarily on past Winter Wishes participants and other New York Cares Community Partners. For this reason, and due to our capacity considering that Winter Wishes is consistently among our most highly demanded programs, we do not open a general application for Winter Wishes.

However, we continue to strive to capture the interest and needs of New York City agencies, and we encourage you to visit our Nonprofits and Schools page to request future volunteer support or be put on our waitlist to ensure we can reach out if the opportunity to expand the program arises.


My organization is unable to participate in Winter Wishes this year. How else can we work with New York Cares?

We continue to strive to capture the interests and needs of all New York City agencies. Please visit our Nonprofits and Schools page to request future volunteer support or to be placed on our Community Partner waitlist to ensure we can reach out if programming becomes available. We also encourage you to refer to this New York City Holiday Drives and Resources document to connect with other gift drives happening in the city. New York Cares is not directly affiliated with these organizations, so please contact the organization listed directly for more information on their program.

Still have questions?