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Gifts That Do Good

Nine charitable-minded presents for hard-to-buy-for recipients.

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Illustration by Joanna Neborsky  

FOR THE MUSEUM JUNKIE
Free Arts NYC membership
(from $35; freeartsnyc.org)
Membership grants you a range of benefits, including two-for-one (or free!) admission and merchandise discounts, at the Guggenheim, Whitney, New Museum, Cooper-Hewitt, Dia:Beacon, and fifteen other cultural institutions. You also get exclusive invites to Free Arts events, auctions, and openings. Proceeds benefit local arts programs for children in need. 

FOR THE PTA SYMPATHIZER
DonorsChoose contribution
(from $1; donorschoose.org)
Like Kickstarter for the public-school set, this charity founded by a former Bronx high-school teacher connects would-be philanthropists with undersupplied classrooms. More than 1,700 requests are currently posted by New York City teachers, who are seeking educational materials both modest (pencil sharpeners) and ambitious (laptops, robot kits). Contribute at least $50 in a friend’s name and he or she will receive photos and handwritten thank-you notes from the students. 

FOR THE NETFLIX RENOUNCER
UnionDocs Bodega pass
(from $100; uniondocs.org)
A night of three-minute shorts hosted by Morgan Spurlock and a presentation by John Greyson, a controversial Canadian video artist, are just two of the events Bodega pass holders can look forward to this winter at Williamsburg’s documentary-art hub. Other benefits of the yearlong giftable membership—aside from free entry to all film programming (a $900 value)—include invitations to quarterly artist lectures and discounts on classes, workshops, parties, and space rentals.

FOR THE TEEN ACTIVIST
Covenant House New York contribution
(from $1; covenanthouseny.org)
The Hell’s Kitchen branch of this international faith-based organization serves 400 homeless teens a day. Make a general contribution in your giftee’s name or let him or her donate a specific present from the nonprofit’s online gift catalogue: A week of baby diapers is $10, shoes and socks for two teens are $20, and a GED study guide costs $25.

FOR THE BUDDING MATHLETE
Advance membership to the Museum of Mathematics
(from $40; momath.org)
Scheduled to open next fall in a 19,000-square-foot venue bordering Madison Square Park, the not-for-profit MoMath will be something of a playground for aspiring Leonhard Eulers. Interactive exhibits, including a rideable square-wheeled tricycle, target kids in the fourth through eighth grades. Onetime math professor and founder Glen Whitney’s M.O.: Make math cool—or at least less loathed. Advance memberships are good through one year after opening day and include unlimited visits, plus behind-the-scenes tours and invites to special events and lectures. 

FOR THE WALL STREET OCCUPIER
Grameen America micro-loan
(from $10; grameenamerica.com)
This not-for-profit microfinance organization, started by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, opened a Bronx branch (its fourth in New York City) in August. The goal: jump-start the careers of low-income entrepreneurs by offering crowd-sourced, collateral-free micro-loans. (In New York alone, the group has distributed some $20 million in loans to more than 6,500 borrowers.) Make a donation of $10, $20, or $30 a month on behalf of a loved one, and struggling locals enjoy reasonable interest rates, a manageable weekly repayment plan, and savings incentives.

FOR THE FIRE-ESCAPE GARDENER 
Prospect Park Alliance tree
(from $75; prospectpark.org)
Plant a commemorative woodlands-restoration sapling for $75, adopt an existing understory tree (flowering dogwood, shadbush) for $500, or lay down $2,000 to plant a red oak, black gum, or white-pine-overstory tree. Benches are also available for $2,500 to $5,000, and carousel horses start at $500.  

FOR THE PET ENTHUSIAST 
Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals donation
(from $10; animalalliancenyc.org)
The Alliance’s programs aid more than 150 local animal-rescue groups, but gift recipients can focus donations on a specific initiative: $100 gasses up a Wheels of Hope van to transport needy pets to no-kill shelters; $50 vaccinates a sick or injured animal in the Picasso Veterinary Fund; and $35 helps the city’s Feral Cat Initiative bottle-feed an orphaned litter of kittens. (Aww …)

FOR THE LITERARY SCENESTER 
Triple Canopy membership
(from $36; canopycanopycanopy.com)
Online magazine Triple Canopy has joined two other arts-centric nonprofits, Light Industry cinema and open-source classroom Public School New York, at a new space in Greenpoint. To get people in the door, the publication is launching a membership program that will operate like a subscription: $5 donated per month will be good for access to Triple Canopy programming (like its June panel discussion about the future of artists’ magazines) and a copy of the book Invalid Format: An Anthology of Triple Canopy; $10 gets you all that and a specially commissioned nylon-and-canvas tote bag by JF & Son.

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