This Thursday, I’m thinking out loud about giving back during the holiday season. Sunday marked the start of eight nights of Hanukkah, and with Christmas coming the halls are decked. The holiday cheer all around brings the desire to ensure that others can share in our joy at this time of year.
Last year, I wrote about giving back as one of my very first posts on this blog. At the time, I shared my reasons for wanting so much to contribute to my community. Since then I’ve discussed why I value experiences more than things, but what I haven’t yet done is get into the specifics. So today is all about the many different ways of giving back during the holiday season, and most importantly, how any way you choose can be carried on all year round.
Join a Volunteer Organization
There are dozens of groups in every town and city across the nation formed for the purpose of making their communities a better place. If you’re in a big city, there are hundreds and even thousands! For example, I am a member of the New York Junior League, an organization comprised of more than a thousand women committed to helping fellow residents of NYC through volunteering on projects as diverse as literacy in schools, assisting in domestic violence shelters, cleaning up playgrounds, teaching kids healthy cooking skills, running financial literacy programs for adults, or fundraising for any of these causes. My committee, the Forum for Nonprofits, runs an annual forum that brings together people who work in the not-for-profit community to learn about a topic directed at helping them grow their own opportunities, whether how best to strategize when created a planned giving program, or where they can make the biggest impact.
Make a Day of Giving
Even if your schedule doesn’t permit you to commit time on a weekly or monthly basis, you can make a difference in a day. Pick any cause or charity and it’s likely they need help whenever you can give it, whether that means once a year or a little more often. Make it a family event and let a different family member choose the cause each time – an animal shelter today, a food pantry next time. Bond with friends over a shared volunteering experience, or go solo and make new friends who share your compassionate values. I had a blast as a one-time volunteer at the Girls on the Run 5K, and I would love to do it again.
Join a Fundraiser
Or be a fund-racer, if running is your thing! Many charities need volunteers to help raise money during big campaigns, or sponsor race bibs for runners, walkathons, stair climbs, sky diving…you name it, you can probably find it! I ran my first Walt Disney World Half Marathon in January as part of Team JDRF, having raised $2,000 (and being part of a team that raised over $50,000) to go towards research for finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. There are so many opportunities in this area, and I’m sure I’ll be fund-racing again in no time.
Donate to a Charity
Giving of both time and money is important. And while many proponents of modern philanthropy have gotten quite analytical about how to give the latter, I think it’s equally essential to spend some time making the decision of where to give based on your own feelings about the world. Of course you should do your research, to make sure your charity or cause of choice will use the money you give them in an appropriate manner. But don’t let mountains of data overwhelm you into not making a choice at all. Check back tomorrow for a post on how to pick the right charity for your donation, and learn to evaluate any one that catches your eye!
How do you choose to give back?
Do you find yourself volunteering more during the holidays, or all year round?
What cause is nearest to your heart?
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