The Complete Guide To Easily Giving Back

Whether it’s to put a smile on someone’s face, or to simply take pride in being an active member of your community, there are plenty of reasons to give back.


In fact, research has shown that giving back actually has a number of tangible benefits. A study by Harvard University found that those who donated money were “42% more likely to be happy” than those who didn’t–and a study by Emory University found that helping others activated the same part of our brains as experiencing pleasure.


However, even if you have a passion for giving back, helping others can sometimes feel overwhelming–especially if you don’t know where to start. You may not know how you want to make an impact, or even how to find the organizations you can work with.


Thankfully, when it comes to helping others, there are a lot of options. Whether it’s donating, volunteering your time, donating old items or fundraising, there are plenty of ways to give back to your community, without stressing out.


To help you help others, we put together a step-by-step guide on how to easily give back. Read ahead to see how you can make a difference.


Step 1: Assess What You Can (And Want To) Provide

There are many ways to give back to the community. Some prefer a monthly cash donation to a charity; others prefer to donate their time or personal items. Some may enjoy bridging the two by hosting fundraising events–using their time to raise money for the community. Some prefer one-on-one mentoring at local schools, while others may prefer social group activities. Understanding your skillset, preferences and abilities is crucial to understanding how you can best give back.


(Note: whatever route you choose, consistency is key. A $5 monthly donation helps a charity more than a one-time $50 donation. Same goes for volunteering shifts).


Step 2: Find A Cause You Care About

One of the main benefits of giving back is getting to help a cause or organization you care about. Everyone has different life experiences and picking volunteer opportunities that you are passionate about is one of the best ways to ensure you stay committed.


To get started with a local organization, we recommend sites like Great NonProfits or Volunteer Match which allow you to search for local nonprofits and charities by city and state–as well as by categories such as civil rights, women’s issues, or veteran support. Take the time to find a position and organization that you’re both passionate about, and that suits your schedule and needs.


Step 3: Don’t Underestimate Your Value

Did you know that 1 in 9 Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from? A fact made more shocking when considering that we throw away 40% of our groceries in this country? So, if you’re hesitating to give back because you worry you have nothing to donate, first consider the unused food in your pantry. Canned meats, fruits and vegetables, as well as cereals and pastas are always in demand at local food banks. Organizations like AmpleHarvest can help connect you to the food bank closest to you.


(Note: Socks are some of the most frequently requested items at homeless shelters, especially in winter. Never overlook items you have that may be of value to someone in need!)


Step 4: Know About Matching Employer Donations

One of the biggest ways to maximize your impact without breaking the bank is through matching charitable contributions from your employer. Even though 18 million Americans work for companies with charitable contribution matching, roughly $4-$7 billion of that money goes unclaimed every year–largely because employees are unaware of their matching policies.


To take advantage of employer donation matching, first check if your company offers it, then check what the stipulations and maximums are. For those interested in fundraising: charitable matching is a huge asset: 84% of individuals say they’re more likely to make a donation if there is charitable matching, and 1-in-3 said their donation would be larger (this in addition to all donations being doubled).


Step 5: Partner With Local Business

Local businesses can be fixtures in the community, and as such are often great resources to tap into for fundraising events. Two common methods for doing this are “cause marketing”–such as when a cashier asks if you’d like to donate $1 after a purchase –or corporate sponsorships, which typically are lump sum donations.


While business owners can certainly be altruistic, it’s also important to keep in mind that they are businesses that need to make money. Maximize your chances for a partnership by doing your research on who their target audience is, and how your cause overlaps with their marketing and branding goals (think good publicity).


Step 6: Get Started!

There’s no better way to help than to get started. Whether it’s volunteering, fundraising, or donating money, giving back to the community is only made possible by putting boots on the ground. Remember that every small amount counts, and sometimes you have to start small before you make a big impact.


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