With world events spotlighting the plight of people everywhere, remembering the less fortunate in our world seems especially poignant during the holiday season. Whether you want to make an impact globally or locally, there are a wide range of ways you can get involved.
If you’re new to doing charity work, navigating a landscape crowded with causes and organizations can appear more complicated than you’d expect. Having someone show you the way can be a significant time saver, so we’ve collected 7 significant ways you can give back during the holiday season.
1) Volunteer at a Shelter or Soup Kitchen
Cold weather can be dangerous, and that’s when homeless shelters find themselves faced with inadequate space. In some communities, churches will band together to offer over-flow shelter service for the night — but this usually does require extra help to staff. Visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Local Homeless Assistance page and click on your state, then on “Find Homeless Resources” to take you to volunteer information.
Soup kitchens also rely almost entirely on volunteer help, but it’s not always obvious who to contact to get involved. Try the “Soup Something” page at Dosomething.org to find where you can help and tips on how to do it right.
2) Participate in a Clothing Drive
With nearly one in every 30 children homeless (2.5 million) in the US, winter coats and other clothing are an absolute necessity this time of year. However, be aware that many places that accept donated clothing are actually in the recycling business and don’t pass on clothing to those that need it. Make sure you double-check who’s getting your donated clothes.
3) Volunteer at a Food Pantry or Food Drive
Nearly 1 in 5 (20%) of US households with children face some form of food insecurity. This fact is even more poignant when you realise that over half of all counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are rural. Nationwide, 17 percent of rural households are food insecure. To find information about food banks in your area, check out Feeding America.org.
4) Get Involved with Your Local Professional Association’s Charitable Work
Local professional associations for psychologists, lawyers, optometrists, plumbers, engineers, and others — all these organizations offer much more than just networking and business opportunities. They also offer chances for members to give back to both their communities and to help aspiring young professionals. Oh yeah — it’s not bad PR, either.
5) School District Community Service Programs
With many school districts requiring community service as a graduation requirement, many have annual holiday programs already in place. This makes the experience convenient and fulfilling for your student and you. Have them also check out related campaigns at Dosomething.org.
6) Attend a Benefit Event
Concerts, theatrical performances, or exhibits are often held to benefit local service organizations. There are also opportunities to go eat at a benefit dinner. Many traditonal community service clubs (such as the Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, Jaycees, and Optimists clubs) business associations, and of course churches put on holiday bake sales and dinners that benefit local charities or services. They are almost always advertised in your local media. Proceeds will directly impact those in need in your hometown, and you’ll get a good meal without having to cook.
7) Engage in Reckless Acts of Generosity and Kindness
Try a few of these everyday acts:
- Pay it forward when in line at your favorite coffee house. Buy a drink anonymously for the total stranger behind you.
- Generously over-tip your server.
- Give a panhandler a sack lunch.
- Enjoy a street musician’s music and pay them for their work.
- Make a tax-deductable donation to a charity in a friend’s name.
- Leave random holiday greeting notes on windshields.
- Contribute an extra 10% of your energy bill to Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
A Final Tip for Charitable Giving
Want to be sure your money’s going where it’s needed? Or do want to know more about the finances of a charity, but you feel a little apprehensive about asking? CharityNavigator.org not only has examined charities, it also follows and rates them.
Whatever you do to give back this holiday season, make sure it has an impact!