You don’t have to be a billionaire philanthropist to make the world a better place. Here are 15 simple things anyone can do to help out.
1. MAXIMIZE YOUR PURCHASING POWER.
Many banks and credit card companies offer charitable giving cards, which make donations to nonprofit organizations with every purchase.
2. SERVE A HOLIDAY MEAL.
Most soup kitchens and shelters serve special holiday meals to hundreds of people. Carve out a few hours of your family’s day to wash dishes, ladle gravy, or welcome folks in from the cold with a warm smile and hot drink.
3. MAKE CHANGE.
Now’s the time to grab that old cookie jar of quarters and dimes, bring it down to the bank or coin machine, and donate the proceeds to a food bank or shelter.
4. CLEAR OUT YOUR DRAWERS.
You may not have much use for a $3.57 gift card, but someone else will. Round up your near-empty gift cards, especially those for office-supply and grocery stores, and call local schools and shelters to see if they want them.
5. PHONE IT IN.
Making small donations is easier than ever in the Internet age. Many nonprofits offer a text-to-donate option, which is as easy as dialing a few numbers while you’re waiting in line at the coffee shop.
6. BUY A FEW EXTRA CANS OF SOUP.
Nonperishables drives are happening everywhere you look this time of year. Add a few cans of soup or tuna or jars of peanut butter to your shopping cart. You may even be able to donate them at the grocery store cash register, via neighborhood can drives.
7. SHARE THE FUZZY WEALTH.
You know your pet is the cutest and the best. Why should you keep all that love to yourself? Call around to nearby senior centers to see if residents might enjoy a visit from your fur baby.
8. DOUBLE THE RECIPE.
By the same token, if you’re famous for your brownies, now’s the time to spread the joy around. Host a charity bake sale, or just offer a little home-baked comfort to those in need. We recommend skipping the nuts to ensure your goodies will be welcome in a wider variety of places.
9. DONATE YOUR KNOW-HOW.
Many public libraries and schools offer services like resume review and job training. Are you a great copyeditor or a computer whiz? A few hours of your time could make a world of difference in your community.
10. THINK TOILET PAPER.
Most donations to soup kitchens and homeless shelters are food-oriented, but there’s a lot more they need. The most sought-after items are often not edible at all, but toiletries like shampoo, soap, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, and toilet paper. Check in to find out what the centers near you could really use.
11. DOUBLE YOUR MONEY.
Your charitable donations could be going twice as far. Find out if your employer offers donation matching; many do. And if they don’t, ask if they’d consider it.
12. START AT HOME.
When we think about giving back, we often think of strangers, but our friends and family all have needs of their own. Offer your overworked brother a few hours of free babysitting, or give your granddad a ride to the doctor’s office. Little acts like these can go a long way.
13. BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR.
By the same token, now’s a great time to get to know your neighbors. Shoveling a walkway, signing for a package, or minding a potted plant for a few days could be a huge help.
14. GIVE LIFE.
Giving blood costs you nothing, generally takes less than an hour, and could mean the difference between life and death for someone else. Keep an eye out for blood drive posters or head down to a donation center today.
15. FILL THOSE PENCIL CASES.
School budgets are tighter than they used to be, and many teachers end up buying their own pencils, craft supplies, and books. See if your neighborhood school has a wish list, or call up a favorite teacher and volunteer to do a little shopping.