The Holiday season truly is a time for giving, and not just physical presents, but feelings of love, joy, and cheer. Whether you have a lot of dolla-dolla-bills or just a few, sometimes it feels like donating money is easier than volunteering your time. But the catch is, donating your time enables you to actually witness the outcome of your contribution, as opposed to simply writing a check. More often than not, volunteers walk away gaining just as much, if not more, from the experience, than the charitable cause itself.
Allow yourself to be inspired this season, to lend a helping hand to a cause or organization that’s important to you. Big or small, you have the ability to make a difference, and in most cases, even an hour can go a long way. Discover volunteer opportunities available in your area, through these meaningful thought starters.
Charity Navigator offers tools to search through organizations based on cause and numerical ratings. It’s mission is to provide donors with a guide to intelligent giving, and the ability to discover and learn about charitable organizations.
How did they do this? By developing “an unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system to assess over 8,000 of America’s best-known and some lesser known, but worthy, charities. Specifically, Charity Navigator’s rating system examines two broad areas of a charity’s performance; their Financial Health and their Accountability & Transparency.”
Choose a cause you believe in, one that’s meaningful to you, and decide to make a difference.
Pay it Forward: Buy the person behind you a cup of coffee, pay for someone’s meal at a restaurant, leave a nice note on a stranger’s windshield. If a person or family is asking for money outside of a grocery store, buy them a bag of groceries mixed with fresh, healthy foods and non-perishables. Little things go a long way. Your small, random acts of kindness may be witnessed by another, who will be inspired to pay it forward too.
Volunteer at an Event: Many charities host holiday fundraisers, races, or end of year events where volunteers are always needed. There are single day event opportunities, that offer many ways to be involved from check-in’s to mentor pairings.
Homeless Shelters & Soup Kitchens: Larger shelters typically form a wait list weeks out from the Holiday season; look for a neighborhood shelter that’s smaller or lesser known, chances are they need extra help compared to the rest.
An everyday opportunity may present itself to you if you live in an area with homeless people and families; deliver a clean blanket, or warm meal to a fellow neighbor in need.
Fight Loneliness: Many people don’t have the opportunity to be with family during the holidays, or find themselves alone. Spend your time connecting with people at a senior center, or check in with your local worship center for people in need. Simply having a conversation can turn someone’s entire day around.
Sponsor a Family: Local organizations, schools, and places of worship will be able to point you in the right direction to help a family in need. Where money is tight, a warm, prepared, loving meal, and small gifts for the kids goes a long way. Some places allow you to deliver is personally, allowing you to meet and spend time with the family you’re helping.
Play Santa: Dress up as Santa, Mrs. Claus, or a friendly elf and deliver gifts to sick children at your local hospital, making their day and environment a lot more cheery. Visit a school in need with a large underprivileged population; get permission to visit classrooms and deliver gifts to those who otherwise may not get any this year.
Believe in Puppy Love: Many shelter animals won’t have loving homes this holiday season, spend time cuddling with a sweet, furry friend. If a foster event pops up in your area, host a pet until able to find a forever home.
Host An Event: If a volunteer opportunity doesn’t present itself, host your own donation event. Invite friends and family to a cocktail hour or dinner party, and instead of holiday gifts, or secret santa’s, ask your guest to bring an item to donate. Canned goods, clothing, school supplies, or gifts, can be collected for the charity of your choosing.