Attention Holiday Shoppers!
December 19, 2007
(Michael Seltzer is a noted authority on the nonprofit sector and philanthropy worldwide. In a previous post for PhilanTopic, he wrote about the convergence of charity and the marketplace.)
(Photo: Rosy-cheeked Santa, with gold-embroidered stars on felt robe. Hand-felted and embroidered by artisans in the Kyrgyz Republic.)
The holidays are a season of giving and shopping. Sale signs in department store windows abound, direct mail appeals and catalogs compete for space in crowded mailboxes, and our wallets and checking accounts take a hit.
Still, it comes as no surprise to learn that the urge to splurge trumps the charitable giving impulse at this time of year. According to the National Retail Federation, total holiday sales are expected to top $457 billion this year, compared to the estimated $295 billion that Americans gave to charity in 2006 (source: Giving USA 2007).
As I mentioned in my previous post, holiday shoppers can score a "two-fer" when they shop with an eye to supporting a worthy cause. By doing so, your purchases will make a positive, lasting difference in the lives of people around the globe.
In that spirit, I propose we go shopping in Bujumbura (Burundi), New Orleans (Louisiana), Asheville (North Carolina), and New York City. Fortunately, through the wonders of the Internet, products made by local artisans in these communities are only a few key strokes away; some can even be found in department stores and malls in your neighborhood.
Here are five holiday shopping tips for 2007:
Aid to Artisans
(recommended by Connie Higginson)
Aid to Artisans endeavors to provide practical assistance and improved livelihoods to artisans worldwide, at the same time fostering artistic traditions, cultural vitality, and community well-being. Through collaborative product development, business skills training, and market development efforts, the organization provides sustainable economic and social benefits for craftspeople in an environmentally sensitive and culturally respectful manner.
(recommended by Michael Seltzer)
Alpha Workshops aims to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS. Based in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, the organization trains people with HIV/AIDS in a range of the decorative arts while helping them regain their financial and emotional stability.
HandCrafting Justice, Inc.
(recommended by Helen LaKelly Hunt)
HandCrafting Justice, a project of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, partners with women struggling for economic justice in sixty-seven developing countries. Wares for sale include handmade items from countries such as Thailand, Kenya, and Mexico.
Handmade in America
(recommended by Becky Anderson)
Based in the Blue Ridge Mountains, HandMade in America supports craftspeople in western North Carolina. Its publication, Handcrafted Design Source, serves as a guide to local artists, who create custom home furnishings, architectural elements, and accessories for the home and garden.
Young Aspirations/Young Artists (YaYa)
(recommended by Michael Seltzer)
Based in New Orleans, Young Aspirations/Young Artists (YaYa) offers artistic opportunities to low-income youth. Its studio-gallery provides young people the chance to apprentice with professional artists, create public artworks, design merchandise, serve as cultural ambassadors, work as project managers, and mentor others in the arts. Students participating in the workshops create original artwork for sale in the YA/YA gallery.
For holiday shoppers like myself who haven't completed their gift purchases, the five aforementioned "stores" are open 24/7 on the Internet. And if you've already finished your shopping, be sure to make a note of these wonderful organizations/sites for upcoming birthday, wedding, anniversary, graduation, and housewarming gifts.
Obviously, I've only scratched the surface here, so if you've got a favorite gift source, let us know by posting a comment below.
Happy Holidays to all!
-- Michael Seltzer