“How to Give” is a monthly column by local philanthropy wizard Lansie Sylvia. In it, Lansie answers readers’ questions about millennials, philanthropy and engaging the next generation of givers. To ask her a question, tweet @FancyLansie.
It’s that time again!
Do you hear the sleigh bells ringing? Do you see the banner ads for those overly expensive shoes you’ve been researching as a “gift to yourself” following you from web page to web page? Yes, it’s the holiday season and for many of us that means buying gifts for the ones we love … which means that it is time for Fa La La La Lansie’s annual Gifts That Give Back Holiday Spectacular!
Before we go any further, let’s cover the basics. If you don’t want more stuff — like tangible, sparkly, wrap-it-up-and-put-it-under-the-appropriate-talisman-to-the-holiday-of-your-choosing stuff — you can always do one of the following instead:
- Donate to a favorite cause in honor of your loved ones (Generocity’s #GivingTuesday roundup or Philadelphia magazine’s charity list are good places to start).
- Become a member of your favorite organization, providing them with a sustainable source of income throughout the year.
- Subscribe to your favorite local theatre, giving them guaranteed revenue so they can keep producing fantastic entertainment all season long. (Personally, I love the Philadelphia Artists’ Collective!)
- Shop online using Amazon Smile and select a Philly-based charity from Amazon’s list of nearly one million charitable organizations, so the tech giant (and hopeful future Philadelphian) will donate a portion of your purchases to the cause.
- Pay it forward by purchasing something that someone really needs using sites like NeedsList and the Penn Live Holiday Wish List.
But for those of you who have friends and loved ones that yip and coo over the sight of a well-wrapped box of surprise and delight, here are my favorite items of 2017 that also benefit amazing Philly nonprofits.
From our Partners
For the band geek: Adoption certificate from Symphony for a Broken Orchestra
I can’t lie: Symphony for a Broken Orchestra is one of my all-time favorite projects of 2017. Born from the realization that there are over 1,000 broken instruments owned by the School District of Philadelphia — which means 1,000 missed opportunities for public school students to experience to joy of music — Temple Contemporary paired up with the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia (and many more partners) to create this wild, wonderful project.
You can “adopt” one these instruments for as low as $50. The symphony will attach your name (or the name of the loved one you’re honoring) to that instrument’s case and you’ll get a beautiful certificate. Full disclosure: I adopted a trumpet for my own sweetie. He’s a trumpet player. He loved it. And he’d have told me if he didn’t.
$50 for an instrument
For the intersectional feminist: WE ARE THE SEEDS tank top
WE ARE THE SEEDS of CultureTrust Greater Philadelphia was founded by a team of women who are “dedicated to educating the world about art and culture as it relates to understanding Indigenous people, the history of the United States, and who we all are as American people today.”
This amazing tank top has a lot of things going for it, not the least of which being how it will showcase some massive gunz as you master Chaturanga Dandasana and your favorite yoga spot.
$19.99-$25.00 per shirt
For the Tahani in your life: Blue suede fainting couch
This is a reference to “The Good Place” on NBC and if you don’t get it then you’re not watching that show yet and WHY NOT? It’s so great! And it involves overriding themes of ethics and justice, which you’re clearly interested in if you’re reading this post. But honestly, Tahani is the worst, even if she’s a philanthropist. #TeamChidi
Anyway, did you know that the Habitat for Humanity ReStore has aisles upon aisles of gently used (and brand new!) furniture and home improvement materials? It does! Need a new sink? Or a gorgeous fainting couch? Check here first because all your purchases will also help Habitat for Humanity’s hardworking partner families achieve safe, affordable homeownership.
$150 for optimal comfort in someone’s life, which is honestly priceless
For the #girlboss: Ted Baker cotton candy pink blazer
You will thank me later for introducing you to the Career Wardrobe Boutique at 19th and Spring Garden. It’s an affordable consignment store chock full of stylish work dresses and sensible designer shoes. The best part is that your purchases benefit the Career Wardrobe’s education, training and job readiness programs.
Plus, the organization has leapt into the digital age by posting its wares on Poshmark, which means you can get your bestie the power suit of her dreams without ever leaving your couch. Slay all day, bae!
$65 for the blazer with many more options available
For the arborist: Adoption certificate from the Philadelphia Orchard Project
Having a green thumb in Philly can be hard — backyards are tiny, and it’s rare that a fruit tree grows in North Philly (see what I did there?).
Luckily, thanks to the Philadelphia Orchard Project, you can celebrate a loved one by planting a fruit tree that can provide a community with 150 pounds of fruit per year for decades to come! You’ll receive a classy certificate in recognition of the tree planting donation.
$60 per tree
For that guy who plays the banjo: Philly Bluegrass t-shirt
This one’s a real humdinger! (Humstrummer?) As appreciation for your $55 donation to Philly Bluegrass, you’ll get a t-shirt, a ticket to the official launch party and concert in 2018, and a Philly Bluegrass sticker. Depending on your generosity (or budget), that could be one gift or three! For two years, Philly Bluegrass has promoted the creation, performance and appreciation of bluegrass and roots music in the Philadelphia area.
And thanks to its new fiscal sponsorship by CultureTrust, you can now become a member, too! Plus, for every donation, Steve Martin will look up from his eggs, stare into the middle distance and feel a sense of emotional satisfaction for reasons completely unknown to him.
$55 for t-shirt, ticket and sticker
For your friend who was in a band but is now in med school: Grit, Gravity & Grace: New Poems About Medicine and Healthcare
I was going to write a witty description, but this is really part of the actual description and I can’t top it: “The poems are grouped by season as many capture images relevant to a particular time of the year or focus on a disease that peaks during certain months.”
Proceeds benefit Philadelphia’s resident odditorium (and also place of great learning!), The Mütter Museum.
$12 per book
For your boss: Building Hero desk organizer
The award-winning Tiny WPA is a self-described “growing army of empowered and skilled young adult leaders and change agents who want to make our neighborhoods and Philadelphia in general, better places to live through design.” Teens and young adults hone their skills and earn money by designing, fabricating and selling products that are so fantastic-looking, they could easily be found in any fancy-shmancy boutique on N3RD Street.
Snag this desk organizer for your boss who loves mid-century modern design, but also never seems to have a highlighter handy.
$40 per set
For your kooky aunt: MartiniPhant
OK, technically the artisanal company behind this weirdly delightful creature is located in Portland (big surprise there).
But when you purchase this tiny elephant with a martini glass on its head from the Center for Art in Wood, the proceeds benefit the center’s mission to nurture and promote the innovation of art in wood through collaborative residencies, exhibitions, education and documentation. In wood.
$46 per adorably useless tchotchke
Other places to buy cool things that are for-profits but still rad and dogoodery:
Do you have other awesome gifts that give back this holiday season? Please add them to the comments!