Woman holding a candle

9 Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

Woman holding a candle

9 Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

Lend help and spread kindness with these simple ways to donate your time, talents or funds.

One thing 2020 has taught us: We’re stronger when we come together (even if we are physically apart). That’s why giving back — in whatever way you can this year — is vital, especially as the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate, disproportionately affecting already marginalized communities.

Since so many people are hurting financially this year, we've rounded up several ways to give back that don’t involve opening your wallet. If you do have the means to donate, we've also put together some ideas for how to make the most out of your donations.

Above all, “giving back” means being intentional about the ripple effect your actions have on the the world no matter what form they take. Read on for some suggestions.

Donating Your Time or Talent

Support Frontline Workers

Deeming doctors, nurses and other frontline workers “heroes” is a colossal understatement. Thank them by writing a heartfelt letter through the organization Letters of Love. If you want another way to help, check out number 5 below and think about donating a meal to frontline workers.

Volunteer for a Cause — From Home

Though getting out of the house to volunteer may be a little harder than usual, you can do good from home.

Passionate about politics? Join virtual phone banking for the upcoming runoff elections in Georgia. Eager to dismantle food inequity? Check out our list of both local and national organizations to support through volunteering.

Many public libraries and schools offer services such as resume proofreading or job interview practice — and many are virtual now. Harness your individual expertise and teach your talents to someone who may not have otherwise had the opportunity. Bottomless Closet provides career training for women and Built by Girls provides mentoring to girls interested in tech careers.

Bring Holiday Cheer to the Elderly

The holidays are often an isolating time for elderly folks who may be away from family (if they have any). This year, those feelings of isolation are magnified. Check in with local senior care facilities to see if there are safe ways to bring some holiday cheer to their residents. Maybe that means making some greeting cards, or offering to help with holiday shopping — a simple yet heartfelt gesture can really boost someone's mood at the end of such a difficult year.

Meals on Wheels is a nationwide network of community-based, non-profit programs that delivers nutritious meals to seniors, which is especially important given that the coronavirus pandemic has caused many seniors to fear grocery stores and outings of any kind. Find a local chapter to start delivering meals. If you're an NYC local, the organization JASA provides critical services to senior citizens in New York City — at-home meal deliveries, social programming and health services.

Be a Good Neighbor

Check in with your neighbors, especially older neighbors who may be struggling. Offer to pick up groceries, shovel the sidewalk, hang decorations or even just chat (at a safe distance, of course)!

And remember, being a good neighbor extends beyond your physical neighborhood. Prioritize gratitude (say thank you to waitstaff and other workers) and compassion (offer help or empathy when you see it's needed) wherever you go this season — you never know who you might affect.

Donating Money or Goods

Give to Organizations You Trust

If you don't already have a recipient organization you trust, finding one may take a little effort — though it will be time well-spent.

As Elisabeth Dawson, a financial expert and founder of COPIA Wealth Management, told SELF, “You [want to] know your donation is going in the right direction, aligned with your beliefs. Do your homework and read their mission statement and goals.” Charity Navigator is a great tool for informed giving — use it to discover charities and learn how each organization puts their donations to use. If you want to check if your charity of choice is a qualified organization, you can use the IRS searchable database of charities.

For our list of social justice organizations to support click here. For our list of organizations working in food and health policy click here.

Want a direct way to give back to frontline workers? Donate a meal. Contact your local hospital, doctor's office, fire station or police station and ask if they are accepting meal donations for their workers. If you’re looking for specific organizations that facilitate meal donations, Feed the Frontlines serves workers in New York and here is a list of chain restaurants and organizations that are helping to feed frontline workers nationwide. If you personally know an essential worker, offer to send them lunch from a local restaurant, or send a gift card to a food delivery service like Seamless or UberEats.

Make a Statement with Your Wallet

Many Black-owned businesses have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. From beauty to home decor and so much more, check out this list of over 100 Black-owned businesses to support this season (and beyond).

Looking for a book? Bookshop helps local and independent bookstores. You can search for a specific bookstore through their database and that bookstore will receive the full profit from your order, or your order will contribute to an earnings pool that is evenly distributed among independent bookstores (even some that don’t use Bookshop).

Donate Goods to a Local Shelter or Food Bank

Find a local food bank or homeless shelter that needs your help this year. You can even start your own drive in your building or neighborhood. Search for your local shelter here, a local food bank here or a local food pantry here.

Don’t forget, while canned goods and non-perishables are helpful, non-food items (like soap, toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper and feminine hygiene products) are just as important.

Give a Toy to a Child in Need

With the number of unemployed Americans currently around 11.1 million, many parents are fearing how they will provide food for their families, let alone toys for the holidays. Toys for Tots has a virtual toy box so that you can donate a toy to a child in need without even leaving your house. Just drag and drop the picture of the toy into the box and brighten a child’s holiday.

Support Schools

Regardless of the year, school budgets are always tight, often forcing teachers to buy their own school supplies. Check in with your kids’ school or a school in your neighborhood to see if they have specific needs for school supplies and give back to the teachers working overtime this year to help students continue their education, even amidst a pandemic.