In lieu of showing you a list of all the ridiculous glittery shoes that I dream of and the stupid expensive perfume I want, I thought I would tell you about how you can become a philanthropist, a patron of the arts, and a contributor to social change this holiday season. Instead of being a period of extreme conspicuous consumption, for me the holidays are a time when I really think about how my limited money can really give back to the world and create value that goes beyond its monetary worth. While I contribute to charitable causes here and there throughout the year, the holidays are when I take the chunk of my income that I would usually allot to holiday presents and give it to charities and causes that are close to my ethics, interests and values, as well as those of my family. Nobody needs more stuff, even stuff that sparkles, and I think my small contributions go a lot further helping these organizations and causes then to buy another glitter goo-gah.
On Christmas morning I give my family members small things, like an eco-friendly ornament or some delicious, artisanal snack produced in Brooklyn (shhh… I’m not telling what I’m giving this year) and a card that tells them about the cause I donated to.
This holiday season, I will be supporting:
The Independent Publishing Resource Center
Located in Portland, Oregon the IPRC has computers, work space, a letter press print shop and library for all things zine and independent comic related that also offers classes and workshops. They do fantastic work around supporting young people, media literary and empowerment and provide an important touch stone for the independent publishing community.
Because this community radio station introduced me to independent music and is a vital source of alternative news, local issues, and music programming in a rural area.
Literacy for Incarcerated Teens
Because everyone deserves access to literature and reading and critical thinking bring hope.
Because I use this resource almost every day and I don’t want to be a free rider. They provide vital programming and resources to people of all ages in Brooklyn and have the most dedicated staff of librarians.
Because by giving people living in poverty animals and skills that can help them secure their livelihood they support empowerment, not a cycle of dependency on aid.
The Food Bank for New York City
Because hunger in urban areas in unacceptable in this day and age.
The Good Shepard Food Bank in Maine
Because hunger in rural ares is unacceptable in this day and age.
Hurricane Irene Relief for Upstate New York Farms
I buy local produce whenever possible and am a member of the Sunset Park CSA. The hurricane left NYC unscathed, but seriously effected our neighbors upstate. It left fields under water during one of the key points in the growing and harvest season, ruining farmers crops and livelihoods. Put your money where your farm to table ethics are.
The Coalition for the Homeless
Because homelessness in NYC is at an all time high of at least 41,000 people and without a secure place to live it is almost impossible to build a secure life.
I will also be looking to donate to the artist projects and organizations on Artspire, the website for the New York Foundation for the Arts’ fiscal sponsorship program (full disclosure, they are my employer and I co-run this program). The great thing about Artspire is you can make a tax deductible donation to an individual artists project. What about this one, which will showcase young dancers and composers and benefit Central Park? You could also look through the many great projects on RocketHub, Kickstarter and Indie GoGo (though in most cases you can’t get a tax deduction for giving through those sites), like this one supporting 131 Washington, a DIY show and art venue in my hometown of Portland, Maine! Or how about helping out Booklyn, a Brooklyn-based book artists alliance which provides key representation for artist book makers?
Also, this holiday season you can be a patron of the arts by buying handmade products. I know venues like Etsy, the Brooklyn Flea, and the Bust Craftacular (which is this weekend) have popularized this option, so you have many options for discovering the perfect handmade item. What about something like the recently released Remedy Quarterly full of recipes and stories about food and feeling good? Perfect for a cold winter evening. Or how about Alejandra O’Leary’s new CD? Supporting independent musicians is always in style.
You can also learn a new skill with a friend. Like beer brewing at Bitter and Esters, a new, friendly brew shop in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Or what about a membership to your favorite local cultural institution? While the big guys like the Met and the MoMA are always popular, what about something like the Brooklyn Historical Society or the Queens Museum of Art (or you can adopt a building on the NYC panorama, the most affordable NYC real estate you could own!)? Discover an amazing cultural institution you never knew was as cool as it is!
There are just so many ways to contribute your hard-earned catch to holidays gifts that have deep meaning and will be worth the investment. They are so much more gratifying to give then something from a chain store. Giving back is my favorite thing about the holidays, even more then pretty white lights everywhere, and something I look forward to all year.
What charitable causes and organizations will you be giving to this year?