So shoebox appeals do a lot of good throughout the world; providing a present during the holiday season to children who don’t get a lot. I’ve contributed to them in the past because it’s important to do things to help those less fortunate than yourself.
The problem with drives like Operation Christmas Child is that they’re run by organisations like the Samaritans. The Samaritans will accept donations from people and deliver them to children in need but then they slip in their leaflets about Christianity and the love of Jesus in order to convert people.
This is extremely similar to the way that religious groups have in the past- and the present- tell poor people that their suffering is justified and will be rewarded in the afterlife.
It also tries to indebt people to Christianity; we’ve given you a present, you should probably come to church on Sunday.
That’s a pretty shitty message to give a kid at Christmas.
Now, just to clarify, I (and I assume most atheists) have no problem with religious charities proving help or comfort to people in need. I have a problem with people or corporations masking as charities offering help for their own means.
So, what should you do instead?
You could take part in a secular appeal like Rotary Club, which gives presents all year round (and for other religious holidays), provide for teens, babies, and families as well.
You could choose a religious organisation that distributes to people regardless of religious affiliation, like Link to Hope. They are a Christian charity but do not put any kind of literature in the boxes.
Further impact can be made via donations of money (and here) rather than items as it allows charities to prioritise donations and also prevents there being too many items for one subset and not enough for another.