4 Big Ways To Give Back During The Holiday Season

photo via @ the.wing

photo via @the.wing

Holidays are a time to get together with family, celebrate traditions and unwind. It’s also a popular time of year to do some good. According to Giving USA, a national report that measures trends in philanthropy in the United States, 30 percent of donations are made in December.

People aren’t just giving their dollars, though—they’re also giving their time. You may have noticed that during November and December, it can be difficult to find volunteer opportunities. Large groups and families are all looking to celebrate the giving season in the same way. More often than not, though, organizations are packing more people than they need in volunteer sessions or arranging opportunities that do not usually exist.  

When the holiday season ends, though, those same groups and individuals that were eager to support a cause disappear. For many organizations that depend on volunteer hours, it can hurt to lose that massive workforce. As a nonprofit professional and advocate for smart philanthropy, I’m sharing with Spire & Co the ultimate ways you can give back during the holidays—and make a difference long after the giving season is over.

1. Become a monthly donor

Sit down with someone you trust—family member, best friend, significant other—and think about the different issues that exist. Are there agencies in your community addressing that issue? Research a few and join their monthly giving program during the holidays. Even $10 each month adds up—that’s $120 a year! Monthly donations provide ongoing support of an organization’s mission and are the most sustainable funds. It’s also a huge strategy for attracting younger donors, which nonprofits need desperately to stay in operation.

Take it up a notch: Don’t restrict your donations. Robots will never be able to do these jobs—ever. We need to keep the lights on and pay the real people helping other people.

2. Ask about special projects

If you’re a student on break, a professional with the whole week between Christmas and New Year’s off, or even a corporate or community group looking to give back just during the holidays, ask about special projects. Most nonprofit staff have the jobs of two or more people, so any help to keep them organized, hit deadlines, stuff and mail thank you letters, decorate, and more makes a bigger difference than you might realize long after the holidays end. This type of “skills-based” volunteerism is best suited for small groups or individuals.

Take it up a notch: Tackle projects from afar. If you find that you really like the organization after doing one project, see what else you can do that might only require a few hours of your time each month. Bonus points if you can do it remotely, like proofreading!

3. Find one-time events that need volunteers

Events are a major source of revenue for organizations, whether organized by them or a third party. Some local 5Ks might benefit agencies in the community during the holidays, so brave the cold for a few hours and hand out hot cocoa or run the registration table. You’re a big part of an event running smoothly! Not all events are outdoors, either. Ask around town about charitable events going on and see if anyone needs a hand setting it up or breaking it down.

Take it up a notch: Organize your own event. If your neighbor sells candles or handbags, work with them to see if you can set up a private party where 10-20 percent of proceeds go to an organization. Third party events happen sporadically, and most nonprofits don’t budget for them, which means you’re giving them unexpected income!

4. Commit to sharing on social

Nonprofits are always a step or two behind everyone else. Many are just now realizing the power of social media in educating the public about the need for their programs. For instance, did you know that the number of people living in poverty in the suburbs is growing faster than in the city? (You can read about that here.) During the holiday season, help them out. Share posts across your platforms, especially if you have a large following. Follow them. Post about them, their importance and why you support them.

Take it up a notch: Reach out and ask to be an online influencer/ambassador for your favorite organization. This type of support is groundbreaking, and can lead to more engagement online and off. Ask the development/communications team to work with you on manageable goals that focus on the holiday season, but are achieved year-round.

Everyone can make a difference. What causes speak to you? Share with us in the comments!

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