Each year we are reminded that the holiday season is the season of giving. What does that actually mean?
Economists predict that US consumers will collectively spend billions of dollars on holiday shopping this year. The firm Deloitte estimates spending between “[$961 and $965 billion], representing a 3.5 to 4 percent increase in November through January holiday sales…over last year’s shopping season.” This doesn’t include sales from online retailers such as Amazon and mail order catalogs, in which Deloitte forecasts an 8.5 to 9 percent spending increase. According to a Gallup Poll, Americans spent an average of $720 each on Christmas gifts in 2014. That figure is expected to jump to an average of $830 for this holiday season.
Imagine the good that could be done if a fraction of that spending was directed towards philanthropic causes.
Instead, consider alternative gift giving. The following guide offers various suggestions to show friends and family you’re thinking of them all the while supporting local/regional non-profits. Not only do these alternatives cut down on all the stuff, they support local organizations that provide a range of important services to our community.
Alternative gifts reduce the clutter, plus donations to 501(c)3 nonprofits are tax deductible! But if you can’t completely resist a little holiday shopping, remember to buy local as often as possible to support our area’s small businesses.
special thanks to the sponsor of this article, The Virginia Zoo
Make a charitable contribution in honor of someone special
It’s easy to honor someone special through a tribute gift in their honor. Usually the organization will send a letter to the honoree so they will know the importance of the donation. Perhaps such a gift can inspire charitable giving throughout the year and continue the cycle of giving. This list features a wide spectrum of non-profit organizations with a direct impact our area and who depend on generous donations. Please share your suggestions of other worthy organizations in the comments!
Hope House Foundation– Helps adults with cognitive disabilities lead independent lives
CHKD– CHKD is the only free standing children’s hospital in Virginia; donations fund critical services and help cover medical expenses for low income families. The King’s Daughters is the founding organization of CHKD and fundraises solely for the hospital.
ForKids– Helps homeless families get back on their feet through supportive housing and programs.
H.E.R. Shelter- A 24/7 emergency hotline and resource center in Portsmouth for abused women. H.E.R. also provides emergency shelter for women and her children.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation– Conservation efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay and provides education, research, and outreach opportunities
SPCA– This no-kill animal shelter is a wonderful place to adopt a furry friend! Norfolk SPCA provides vet services and a pet pantry for low income owners.
Union Mission Ministries– An emergency homeless shelter in Norfolk for men, women, and children. The Union Mission also provides meals, counseling, and rehabilitation programs. Camp Hope Haven in Virginia Beach is a summer camp for low income and homeless children.
Animal Resources of Tidewater– Services include rescue and foster care, adoption, medical assistance, spay & neuter services, and pro-bully breed awareness initiatives.
The UP Center– Serving HR for over 130 years; provide counseling services and crisis support for children, families, and people with disabilities.
Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia– The FoodBank serves all of HR by providing food for the hungry as well as programs for community gardens, schools, and needy children.
Friends of the Norfolk Public Library– Raises funds to support the library including outreach programs to encourage literacy. Not a Norfolk resident? Check your city’s website for information on your public library system.
Lee’s Friends– Offers person-to-person counseling for cancer patients and their families as well as services to cover expenses and provide transportation for patients.
d’Art Center– An artist collective in Downtown Norfolk. An explosion at the Selden Arcade in April has left the Center’s artists without studio space since April. Donations are critical to helping these local artists and ensuring the Center’s future.
St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children– A long-term pediatric residential care facility exclusive to children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities. St. Mary’s provides 24 hour critical care and therapy services to its young residents.
I Need a LightHouse– A depression and suicide awareness, prevention, and counseling program with a focus on youth outreach. INAL also runs a 24/7 crisis hotline.
Eggleston Services– Provides employment, training, and financial planning for people with disabilities. Check out the multitude of services Eggleston provides in HR including a garden center, paper shredding, embroidery, pet care, bulk mailing, and vehicle auctions.
Norfolk Historical Society– Works to preserve the history of Norfolk through education, advocacy, and preservation of knowledge and landmarks.
Barrett Transitional Home– A program to help abused, low income, at-risk, and homeless women break the cycle of poverty and abuse by providing shelter and supportive services.
Park Place Child Life Center– Provides arts-based programs to encourage literacy and artistry to foster a love for learning for children in Park Place.
WHRO– Our local public TV and radio broadcaster, WHRO & WHRV provide a range of educational and outreach services for individuals, businesses, and other non-profits in HR. And who doesn’t love the local programming from Cathy Lewis and Paul Shugrue?!
Volunteer Hampton Roads– Promotes corporate engagement with area nonprofits, provides resources to nonprofits to help them grow, and arranges volunteer opportunities for various events and organizations.
Give the gift of fun, memories, and education
Consider the gift of a family membership to the many wonderful cultural and educational institutions in Hampton Roads. It’s the perfect gift for the person who already has everything. Not only does this completely cut out giving more stuff, it provides the opportunity for the receivers to have a fun way to spend time together and learn a thing or two. Imagine a parent’s enthusiasm that they now have a family bonding activity throughout the year and less toys to clean up. You can also sign up for classes, workshops, and special events. As the Virginia Zoo has put it, gift wildly!
Chrysler Museum– Memberships, events at the Glass Studio, classes, tickets to special events & exhibitions, workshops, tours, trips, and lecture series.
Botanical Gardens– Memberships, tours, tickets to special events and exhibitions.
Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)– memberships, tickets to special events & exhibitions, classes, and workshops.
Virginia Aquarium– Memberships, tickets to special events & exhibitions, tours, and don’t forget the Adventure Park!
Virginia Sports Hall of Fame & Museum– Memberships, tickets to special events, exhibitions, and members have the ability to nominate and vote on inductees.
Hermitage Museum & Gardens– Memberships, tickets to special events & exhibitions, classes, workshops, and lecture series.
Virginia Air & Space Center– Memberships, tickets to special events & exhibitions, IMAX theater, admission to over 300 reciprocal science/history centers with membership.
Nauticus & Battleship Wisconsin– Memberships, tickets to special events & exhibitions, member discounts to other Seven Venues shows & performances, classes, workshops, Sail Nauticus and Battleship Wisconsin member events and discounts.
Children’s Museum of Virginia– Membership, tickets for special events & exhibitions, classes, and workshops.
Support local arts and culture
There’s no shortage of arts and culture in Hampton Roads, particularly with Norfolk being home to the Virginia Opera, Virginia Symphony, and Virginia Stage Company. The area is bursting with performing arts from local, regional, and national acts. Many of these organizations provide important outreach services to foster arts and education for our area’s youth, which is funded through ticket sales and donations. You can support the local arts with the gift of tickets or season subscriptions that will expand horizons and create lasting memories. Get discounted tickets and other perks with memberships/subscriptions. This is a great alternative for parents, grandparents, close friends, and significant others!
Find holiday gifts for every person on your list in the Virginia Zoo Holiday Gift Guide. From teachers, to kids and even that hard to shop for aunt or uncle, the Virginia Zoo will help you give the gifts of the season. Gift wildly this holiday season. Visit the Gift Guide here.