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Dayna Del Val, The Arts Partnership, Published December 22 2013

Del Val: Give a gift that keeps on giving

As shoppers panic on this last full day of gift-buying, convinced there’s nothing out there for that person on their list who has everything, I offer a solution that goes beyond a gift card.

Instead of giving them $50 toward more stuff they don’t need, consider donating that money to an arts nonprofit in honor of the recipient.

Don’t think that sum can do much for an organization? Think again.

Here’s what $50 means for a few area arts organizations:

• The Stage at Island Park: one scholarship for a disadvantaged student to take a theater class.

• Red River Watercolor Society: a teacher for one class.

• Harwood Prairie Players: four boxes of screws, 25 two-by-fours, or 2 gallons of paint to build a set.

• The Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County: an ad in a school newsletter that will reach 6,000 Moorhead students and their parents; or two hours of grant writing.

• FM Opera: a ticket subsidy for two students to attend a performance at the $5 student rate; or the leading lady’s wig rental and makeup.

• Music Theatre FM: 1,000 postcards as promotional handouts for a production; microphone batteries for one performance.

• FM Area Youth Symphonies: Purchase an entire piece of music for junior high students.

• The Rourke: A frame for an artwork to be exhibited.

• Trollwood Performing Arts School: 25 rides for a student to attend June programs; or a pair of dance shoes for a student.

Still think $50 is too little to make much of a difference?

But it’s about more than the dollar amount.

Scott Brusven, director of The Stage at Island Park, said, “A gift to any organization spurs awareness of giving, and it inspires others to join in and walk alongside our arts organizations. The more people who link arms, the stronger the force will be and the deeper the roots of the arts in our community.”

For many nonprofits, any dollar amount is an affirmation that you support their work.

“Smaller donations add up to big opportunities, and without them, we would not be able to offer these life-changing opportunities to many,” said Kathy Anderson, executive director at Trollwood Performing Arts School.

Give and know that your dollars will be added to the larger pot.

“Giving a small amount is kind of like ants building a mountain. No one creature does very much, but when they all do a small amount, it can be huge and very meaningful to many,” said FM Area Youth Symphonies executive director Beth Fortier.

Imagine how different the nonprofit community would be if everyone gave one gift donation this year.

If each of the 150,000 people in the metro area donated $50 to a nonprofit, the organizations would have an extra $7.5 million this year.

There is no shortage of nonprofits from which to choose. There are over 50 arts organizations alone that fall under The Arts Partnership’s umbrella.

This is a generous community on the whole, but I think there’s an odd hang up about giving a donation on behalf of someone else.

There’s something about opening a box versus an envelope. The envelope might be a little anti-climactic, but gift cards also come in underwhelming envelopes.

There’s also something about saying, “I chose to give you nothing tangible and instead expect you to feel good that you are helping the community through this gift.” It feels a bit presumptuous. I suppose George Costanza of “Seinfeld” fame also tarnished donation giving when he made up a nonprofit to avoid purchasing gifts for anyone.

Anne Kaese of the Red River Watercolor Society said, “It is not the size of the gift that matters but the giver’s wish for others to pursue, be exposed to or grow in an art form that they enjoy.”

This year, find the people in your life that would appreciate you making a donation on their behalf to an organization whose work means something to you or them.

Try it, and watch how the arts grow – $50 at a time.

Dayna Del Val, executive director of The Arts Partnership, writes a monthly column for Variety. For more information on the arts, go to http://theartspartnership.net.