Gifts That Will Keep on Giving

Wendy Liscow, Program Officer

I don’t know about you, but as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are crammed into the refrigerator, I start to think about two things: sending year-end donations to my favorite nonprofits and tackling my holiday gift list.  I have come to dread the latter task, not just because I hate crowds and making gift decisions, but also because I don’t want to spend money on more “stuff” that people don’t really want and that will ultimately end up in a landfill.   I am part of a growing number of people who want their purchases to reflect their values.  In fact, one of New American Dream’s holiday polls revealed that 82% of Americans would rather receive a photo album filled with memories than a gift from a store.  New American Dream offers a great list of ideas on how you can make more socially responsible choices.

I’ve committed to using my purchasing power for dual purposes:  delight the gift-receiver and support New Jersey’s nonprofits.  Just a little bit of brainstorming will reveal a plethora of ways to do this.

How about giving your friends and loved ones tickets to a concert, play, or dance?  Or even better, consider a subscription.  How about a class at your favorite community arts center or nature reserve?  Or a membership at a museum.  Or check out a New Jersey Audubon birding tour and workshop or a Hackensack River Eco-Cruise. Or consider a donation to your friends’ and family members’ favorite charity/nonprofit in their name!

If you are thinking that you would prefer to give your lucky family members and friends something more tangible that they can unwrap and keep, why not consider a gift that also supports the herculean efforts of a nonprofit organization and  bolsters the livelihood of an artist.  For example, you can help ArtPride NJ raise $10,000 to support the Arts in our state by bidding (before December 11, 2009) on almost 70 items of memorabilia, travel packages, and tickets to cultural events at their online auction.

I have found some of the most unique, one-of-a-kind gifts at museum stores and holiday art sales.  This weekend there are some fabulous events at some of the greatest art centers in our state.  Be sure to check these out:

gsndc Wheaton Arts

On December 5th and 6th you can catch Millville’s WheatonArts holiday happening which features some excellent discounts.  Make a day of it and watch artist Deborah Czeresko and her team create an amazing large-scale blown-glass snowman and other holiday related pieces.  According to Dodge Foundation President and CEO David Grant, who witnessed this artistic feat several weekends ago, it is something you won’t want to miss.

JJD_Lucky_Mandala D&R

Princeton’s D & R Greenway has a history of bringing the arts and environment together, and Sunday December 6th their Winter Green: Gifts of Nature holiday sale will showcase watercolor calendars featuring creatures of the wild, jewelry and wearable art, ceramic works, photography note cards, and mosaics and tiles.   35% of the proceeds support D&R Greenway’s preservation and stewardship efforts.

Glassroots youth

December 3-6 you can visit the GlassRoots studio in Newark for demonstrations, studio tours and holiday shopping.  GlassRoots is also participating in a range of other holiday sales events at New Jersey Performing Arts Center and PSE&G.  A purchase of these beautiful glassworks made by Newark youth makes it possible for young people to learn a distinctive craft and develop entrepreneurial skills.

Newark Museum Shop

Museum shops have become one of my favorite shopping haunts.  In fact, this past spring I made lots of graduating teens happy with unique gifts made from recycled materials from the Newark Museum Shop.    Morris Museum kicks off their holiday sale and special events this weekend and you can use a special 10% off coupon for Montclair Museum’s Holiday Sale on December 3-6.  If you are in Oceanville, NJ be sure to stop in at Noyes MuseumThe Brodsky Center for Innovative Editions at Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Brunswick is offering fabulous art at “ridiculously low prices” at their holiday blowout on December 14 and 15th.

These ideas represent only the tip of the iceberg of possible gift ideas that will please the most finicky people on your list and make for a more socially responsible holiday season.  So, help us out, and please share your ideas  for supporting nonprofits while tackling that holiday list.

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6 Responses to Gifts That Will Keep on Giving

  1. The Store and Gallery at Peters Valley Craft Center will be hosting its Annual Winter Open House this Saturday, December 5th from 10am-6pm. The day will feature live craft demonstrations and warm winter treats while you experience the beauty of fine craftsmanship. We have the store stocked with hundreds of hand made ornaments, hostess gifts, children’s toys, jewelry, clothing, accessories, & more in glass, wood, fibers, pottery, photography, mixed media & metal. Our Annual Wearable Art Exhibition is on now in the upstairs Sally D. Francisco Gallery. Throughout the month we will have artist demonstrations Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Please visit for more information.

  2. […] This post was Twitted by moonflowerstarf […]

  3. […] the beginning of this month, Wendy Liscow offered an extensive selection of thoughtful holiday gift ideas that also benefit New Jersey […]

  4. Lessons learned in 2009 and from the NJSCA Funding Freeze

    1. The demand for programs and services does not in itself guarantee success: The real issue is the sustainability of adequate funding. There is no shortage of grants that partially fund programs and services, that transfer to small and midsize nonprofits the burden and risk to deliver those programs and services. Indeed many of these small to midsize organizations choose to do programs that honor their mission with reckless abandon to fiduciary responsibilities.

    2. The recent freeze has pointed to something intrinsically unsettling and episodic: the financial distress of most small to mid-size nonprofits organizations! Does your board have the resolve to break the grip of this distress that may demand radical changes in governance to move the organization to financial viability?

    3. Does your organization have a sustainable fundraising model: How has the operating environment changed and is it possible that meeting increased financial demand can push the organization into further financial distress? Does your organization have the resources to invest in building a sustainable fundraising system?

    4. Has your board established a threshold of minimum net assets and agreed that dropping below this minimum triggers a conversation about whether to continue or retire your organization? And if you continue are you positioned to effectively carry out your mission?

    5. Faced with the task of maintaining order in a context of infinite variables – poor performance, changes in the market conditions, new competitors, mismanagement, insufficient governance – how will leadership in your organization respond?

    6. Faced with a major crisis can your organization avoid insolvency or bankruptcy (Ron Mattocks asserts in Zone of Insolvency that 30% of the existing nonprofits operate perpetually in the zone of insolvency)? Can reduction in charitable gifts pose serious threats to cashflow; underfunded programs; and an already reduced workforce?

    7. Do your Trustees need to exercise a healthy dose of skepticism in carrying out their fiduciary responsibility: does each member of the board understand their legal responsibility (See Sarbanes – Oxley Act)

    8. In a significantly depressed economy it is critical that trustees work closely with the accountant and auditor of their organization to get a clear understanding of their Balance Sheet. Do your Trustees exercise appropriate concern about the collectability of receivables?

  5. P.S. My entry, Lessons learned in 2009 and from the NJSCA Funding Freeze, is directly from notes I took while reading Ron Mattocks, Zone of Insolvency, four weeks ago. I merely reframed some of the questions he raised but most of the language remains unchanged. I recommend this book.

  6. Wendy Liscow says:

    Thanks Victor. I am going to order the book! By the way did you mean to comment on Laura’s entry about the Arts Freeze? If you want to repost there, more people might get introduced to these ideas?

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