How to shop for...The Volunteer

Looking for “non-traditional” gift ideas this holiday season?  Want to give your special someone a present that keeps on giving, long after the Christmas tree comes down?  Then consider a gift of membership to one of Tennessee’s many diverse nonprofits that help make the Volunteer State a better place to live, work, and play. 

With thousands of nonprofits to choose from, where does one “shop” for a nonprofit?  You’ll need to do a little homework. 

Take for instance William “Bill” Harpst, who lives in East Nashville with his partner of nearly six years, Gary West. A Chicago native who moved to Nashville 16 years ago, Bill got involved with volunteering in 2004. He’s been hooked ever since. 

For the past seven years, Bill has participated in the annual Nashville CARES AIDS Walk, having raised nearly $10,000 for Nashville CARES. “I became involved with Nashville CARES after my own HIV diagnosis,” Harpst says. “Having utilized their services myself, I realize how vital this organization is to the Middle Tennessee region, especially for those who need a support network.” 

Bill also volunteers with the local chapter of the American Red Cross as a result of seeing a downtown billboard promoting their “Join the 10,000” campaign, a three-year initiative to recruit and train 10,000 disaster volunteers. He also enjoys live local theater, caving, and his rescued dogs; Molly, a German Shepherd, and Surge, a Miniature Pinscher.

Now that we know a little more about Bill, we’d suggest the following non-traditional holiday gifts. And, remember donations to nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations are tax-deductible!

Nashville Humane Association – Purchase an engraved marble tile that will line the entrance to the humane association’s offices for years to come.  Engraved text can recognize a favorite pet, memorialize a loved one, or feature a quote.  A 6”x12” tile with 3 lines of text is $125 or a 12”x12” tile with 6 lines is $300. Visit for more information.

Belcourt Theater – Purchase a 1-year membership to the Belcourt Theater, Nashville’s only historic nonprofit theater for the arts.  Located in Hillsboro Village, the Belcourt’s mission is to preserve the unique landmark as a venue for films and the performing arts.  Members enjoy discounted admission, merchandise, concessions, and special events.  A dual “Screenwriters” membership for Bill and Gary is $70.  Visit for more information.

My Shirt Helps – Still can’t decide? How about buying a cool tee-shirt to support a good cause?  “My Shirt Helps” is an outgrowth of the popular “We Are Nashville” campaign following the devastating May Flood of 2010.  All proceeds from tee-shirt sales are donated to nonprofits such as International Med Corps, Save the Children, Samaritan’s Purse, American Red Cross, and Center for Community Giving.  Causes focus primarily on natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, and tsunamis.  Tee-shirts cost $10-20 with more than 25 designs to pick from. Visit to learn more.

There are so many ways to give gifts to loved ones that serve the dual purpose of supporting deserving nonprofits that make our world a better place!

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