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

Winter Wishes FAQ

About Winter Wishes

What is Winter Wishes?

Winter Wishes is our annual holiday gift-giving program. Each wish is matched with volunteers who purchase personalized gifts for tens of thousands of children and teens every year; helping to make the holiday season a little brighter.

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.


Who is Winter Wishes intended to impact?


Children and teenagers from low-income families. To reach this demographic Winter Wishes has focused its efforts on partners from family shelters, public housing facilities, and public schools.

How can I support Winter Wishes?

There are many ways to support the Winter Wishes program:

  • Spread the word: Tweet, share, post about Winter Wishes and encourage your networks to get involved. Include  #WinterWishes in your posts and make sure to tag us! Instagram: @newyorkcares | Facebook: | Twitter: @newyorkcares.

  • Register to fulfill a wish: Sign up as an individual or recruit friends, family, colleagues, or neighbors to grant Winter Wishes as a group. Registration opens in mid-October.

  • Volunteer for a letter reading project: Sign up for a letter reading project. Opportunities are available on select Saturdays and weekdays in October. 

I need to provide documentation of my service. What is the best way to verify my volunteer work?

The most convenient way to verify your service is to print out a copy of your Project History page, which can be found under your My Profile page. Alternatively, we can provide a Letter of Service, a document printed on our letterhead which verifies your service with New York Cares. Simply fill out this request form at least five days before the letter is needed.

What type of organizations does New York Cares work with for Winter Wishes?


All of the organizations participating in Winter Wishes are current New York Cares Community Partners. This means they are either a public school, government agency or registered nonprofit. All our nonprofit Partners must have a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt designation, indicating a charitable mission. Our partners are incredibly varied; some are large, established nonprofits and others are small, locally run organizations.

This year, the focus of Winter Wishes is providing gifts to children and teenagers from low-income families. To do this, New York Cares has prioritized family shelters, public housing providers and Title 1 schools.

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

We want to hear about your shopping adventures and your gift wrapping events! Share your stories with or tag us (@newyorkcares on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) using #WinterWishes and we’ll help spread the good news!

Granting Wishes

I’ve granted wishes for a specific organization for years, but this year they don’t seem to be participating in Winter Wishes, why is that?


The focus of Winter Wishes this year is providing gifts to children and teenagers from low-income families. To increase our impact while doing this we have focused our efforts on community partners from family shelters, public housing facilities, and public schools with high economic need. This change has meant a change in community partners who participate in Winter 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 as a group. You can register in mid-October.

I tried to find the organization connected to my letter/wish and it didn't have a website. Should I be concerned?

Not at all! All organizations participating in Winter Wishes are current New York Cares Community Partners. Our partners are incredibly varied, and not all of them have the time or resources to build a website or manage social media channels. This means you may not be able to find out much information about them online. If you’d like more information about the organization you were matched with, email us at

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

Once you are matched with a letter, 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.

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 costing more than $40 or the gift is difficult to find, you can refer to our suggested gift lists for children and teens for ideas (coming soon!). There is no minimum amount you are required to spend, and you are only expected to purchase one gift. Because our clients come from diverse backgrounds, 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 want to personally hand-deliver the gift(s), please confirm with the agency. You can confirm your agency’s open hours by contacting the agency’s main contact phone number or email address included with your letter. We encourage mailing to make the process easier for volunteers and our partners. 

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.

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.

The letter I was matched with is requesting a gift over $40. Do I have to purchase a gift over $40?


New York Cares believes everyone deserves to experience the joy of receiving a great gift, especially over the holidays. Our program guidelines recommend that participants do not request gifts that cost more than $40 but sometimes this will be missed. It is up to you whether you would like to spend more than $40 but you are not obligated to. If the requested gift is more than you are able to spend, please purchase another gift based on the child’s age and interests. 

The letter/wish I received asked for iPhone Accessories/PS4 games/an item which seems unfit for participants who are struggling financially. Is this an error or should I still fulfill this wish?


This is not an error. New York Cares believes everyone deserves to experience the joy of receiving a great gift! Children and teens will ask for a variety of things depending on their age, interests and what they see around them. This may include gifts related to technology. It is a misconception that if a family can afford a smartphone, computer, or gaming device, they are not in need of support. These devices may have been gifted previously or provided by a school. Access to these devices are also important for communication, safety, education, and employment opportunities 

Requesting Gifts

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

In line with our mission to meet community needs in the most meaningful ways, our outreach efforts will focus on children and teens from low-income families. We will be prioritizing applications from family shelters, public housing facilities and public schools with high economic need. All Community Partners that participated in any New York Cares program will receive an invitation to apply. For this reason, and because Winter Wishes is among our most highly demanded programs, we do not open a general application for Winter Wishes.

However, we continue to strive to understand 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.


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?