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5 Ways for Designers to Pay it Forward This Holiday Season

by Emily Potts
art & design, featured

In the spirit of holiday giving, we asked several creatives to tell us how they give back to causes they are passionate about. Whether it’s donating money, time, or belongings, every little bit matters to those who are in need. We hope their stories inspire you to pay it forward this holiday season and all year long.

1. Buy from Retailers that Support Good Causes

Debbie Millman offers a simple idea anyone in the giving spirit can do: Join Amazon Smile. This program allows a percentage of what you purchase to go to a charity of your choice. She says, “I’ve chosen The Joyful Heart Foundation, and it makes me happy to know that whatever I purchase on Amazon, whether it is a book, toilet paper or socks, a portion of it goes to an organization that I love.” What could be simpler than that?

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2. For the Love of Animals

Designer and animal lover, Robynne Raye (who is also the author of 1000 Dog Portraits) says, “I seem to be short on time these days, so I donate money several times a year to support local animal shelters.” Writer Laurel Saville volunteers with the Seattle Animal Shelter, and she is the training coordinator for an all-volunteer animal rescue group on Vashon Island. “I work with dogs in our care to help address behavior issues so they can be more adoptable, and I work with new adopters to help them be more successful with their dogs, in addition to training other volunteers.” Ask your local animal shelter how you can help.

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‘Tis the season. Gift the creative in your life something special – check out our curated holiday gifts


3. Create Art for a Cause

Salli S. Swindell has taken part in an annual event for the past 15 years called the Christmas Stocking Competition, which is held at The Grey Colt in Hudson, Ohio. The event rallies artists, crafters, and DIY’ers to create a handmade stocking using any medium or materials. The stockings are revealed at a preview party in the shop, and then on display in the window the following week. “People buy raffle tickets to win a stocking and the proceeds are all donated to a local cause,” Swindell says.

About 60 stockings are submitted each year garnering an average of $6,000. “The preview party is such a fun and festive event. It’s amazing how creative people get with their stocking entries. Over the years I’ve seen carved wooden stockings, garlands made of clay stockings, every kind of fabric and stitching, and even an evening gown in the shape of a stocking! Many of us here in town start thinking about our concept in the summer. It’s a super cool event that connects the community in a creative way and helps a local cause.”

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Why not start your own Christmas Stocking Competition or something similar? “When we started it we had no idea how much of a community event it would become. People really look forward to participating and contributing every year,” she says.

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4. Support Locals in Need

Meanwhile, back in Seattle, the elves at Tether are busy with a couple of causes this holiday season. Chief Creative Officer, Stanley Hainsworth, says, “We pick a family each year and get to know them, their names, their likes, their dreams, and then we pick out gifts/services that will fulfill their holiday wishes. We involve the whole studio from selection to wrapping.”

In addition, this year the studio identified a huge problem in their community, so they created the “Share the Warmth” campaign. “We are located in Pioneer Square, which has the highest concentration of homeless services/missions in the city, and hence a visible homeless community. In fact, the mayor of Seattle has declared a homeless state of emergency,” Hainsworth explains. “We know that we are blessed by the fast-growing economy in Seattle and also feel responsible to help with the challenges that come along with that. We are partnering with our friends at Mamma’s Hands (one of our pro bono clients) and missions in Pioneer Square to collect and distribute warm winter clothes to our neighbors in need. We are putting out collection boxes in our neighborhood and at Tether, and we will be handing out the clothes, along with free hot cocoa.”

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5. Give Yourself

Matthew Jervis says, “This holiday season, as well as previous ones, I’ve tried to make an effort to give my time rather than just my money. I know what you’re thinking, and yes I agree: Time is expensive. Most of us run in the red pretty much most of the year when it comes to our time. Which is why its value is much greater than just a couple of bucks.

“So, this season I’ll be a big spender and give a little bit of my time instead of money. I’ll spend time in my kids’ classrooms, spend a little extra time with my own students, or spend a little time on a quiet hike with a friend.

“Money is huge, I don’t mean to diminish its importance to many amazing and needy organizations, but I have found that when we give our time to those same organizations, or the important people in our lives, we end up giving a wonderful and priceless piece of ourselves. This can be the best gift of all this season,” he says, adding, “Of course, don’t forget to tip your bartenders!”


‘Tis the season. Gift the creative in your life something special – check out our curated holiday gifts


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Emily Potts

Emily J. Potts has been a writer and editor in the design industry for more than 20 years. Currently she is an independent writer working for a variety of clients in the design industry. www.emilyjpotts.com