Your mailbox is probably overflowing with letters from nonprofit organizations asking for year-end donations. If you don’t already have a personal connection to a cause, what to pick? Who is more worthy than the rest?
Tough call. It’s particularly challenging at the end of the year for cultural organizations to compete with other nonprofits whose missions involve urgent and tangible needs like feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, advocating on behalf of battered women, giving medicine to needy children, and more. But as you know, cultural organizations can also feed the mind, offer solace, inspire, and bring joy (and of course contribute to our economy in a major way). Please keep them in mind as you consider donations this month.
Here are a few recommendations that focus on family friendly places in the St. Louis region and whose memberships include useful benefits that can save you money on your visits. Donations to these companies are tax-deductible (check with each membership level for the exact amount). Do you work for a mid to large size for-profit company? Ask your human resources department about matching gifts. You can often double your donation and the nonprofit typically bumps you up to the next membership level with the match.
Missouri Botanical Garden: Memberships come with complimentary tickets to The Children’s Garden (open April-October), an incredible place for kids to run around, engage in pretend play, climb, play with boats, hang from ropes, slide, stack, play with musical instruments, and more.
Museum of Transportation: This museum is a little on the scrappy side, but perfect for your little one who loves things that go. A membership includes visits to the Creation Station (a wonderful indoor play area that is great for infants to 5 year olds) and train rides that go around a big parking lot two times (kids still love it!). There are great old trains to ramble around in on the museum grounds as well.
The Magic House: People travel from all over the country and beyond to delight in The Magic House, a fantastic children’s museum that caters to infants through 9 year olds (or so). Most museum memberships offer complimentary admission, free visits for playdates, cafe and class discounts, and more. We’ve been visiting The Magic House for the last year and my three-year old often ends up crying/whining about leaving. She has way too much fun. There is an enormous amount to play with and it is all smartly designed. Admission is usually $8.75 per person above one year of age (including you!), so if you end up being a frequent visitor, a membership is definitely worth it.
St. Louis Zoo: Yes, it isn’t exactly warm weather to be romping around at the zoo, but there is an indoor area of the Children’s Zoo as well as some other indoor animal exhibits. With a membership, you get passes for the Zooline train (regularly $5 per person over the age of 2), parking (comes in handy when there is no street parking for blocks and your kid is saying “hold me!” The parking lot is regularly $11 per car.), the Children’s Zoo (regularly $4 per person over the age of 2), and the carousel (regularly $3 per person over the age of 2, that includes a caregiver who is holding the child on the carousel animal).
St. Louis Science Center: If you have a high energy child who likes a little “organized” chaos, this place is for you. The free areas of the Science Center are fairly limited. Special exhibitions, the Discovery Room, the OMNIMAX, and the planetarium among other activities, require admission fees. Parking is $9 per vehicle. Membership benefits include free or discounted admission to all of these and parking passes. If you have a 3 to 7 year old who likes things a little calmer (the rest of the Science Center is really loud on a busy day), the Discovery Room is perfect. Interactive magnet exhibits, a water table, reading areas, pretend play and more help your kids learn a bit about science. The Discovery Room sessions are 45 minutes each and start at the top of the hour.
Opera Theatre of St. Louis: This professional opera company is nationally and internationally respected. It is fiscally sound, bursting with creativity, and produces some fantastic productions. Opera Theatre of St. Louis also has an extensive education and artist training program. About 26% of Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s income comes from ticket sales, so they rely heavily on donations to make their magic happen. We are very lucky to have them in Webster Groves.
Naturally, any of these memberships/donations can be given as thoughtful gifts.
Want to check on these nonprofits’ fiscal management? Check guidestar.org for more or contact the organization directly.
Happy Holidays and enjoy the gift of experience!