The Complete Guide To Easily Giving Back
Want to start the new year by giving back to your community? With the COVID-19 pandemic devastating many families’ finances, now more than ever it’s important to give back to your community and support those who need it most.
Deciding how — and where — you want to make a difference doesn’t need to be overwhelming, either. Whether it’s donating money, volunteering your time, donating old items or fundraising, there are plenty of ways to give back to your community without stressing out:
Step 1: Figure out what you can (and want to) provide.
Do you want to give time, money, or goods? There are lots of ways to give back to your community and understanding your skillset and the kind of commitment you have to give is an essential first step in the process.
Giving back to the community doesn’t have to be expensive. You can start by listing out what skills you have that might help others and by taking a look your calendar. If you find you have free time to volunteer, you can make a difference for free.
Step 2: Find your passion.
One of the best parts of giving back is knowing you’re supporting a cause that matters to you. Sites like GreatNonProfits or VolunteerMatch allow you to search for local nonprofits and charities by location and category, so you can easily find causes you would like to support in your local community.
Step 3: Don’t underestimate how much your pantry can help others.
One in 9 Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from, 1 in 4 households experienced food insecurity in 2020, and yet an estimated 30%-40% of the nation’s food supply ends up getting tossed out. All that’s to say: It doesn’t take much to make a huge difference in someone’s life. Perhaps spend 30 minutes each month cleaning out your pantry and donating the food you know you won’t end up eating. Your kitchen will feel lighter and more organized, and you will also be helping to feed someone who’s hungry.
Canned meats, fruits and vegetables, 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.
Personal items like socks, undergarments, and feminine hygiene products are some of the most requested items at homeless shelters, so don’t overlook a simple cart addition when you’re shopping. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how grateful someone would be for it.
Step 4: Research matching employer donations.
One of the biggest ways to maximize your impact 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 unused every year — largely because employees are unaware of their company’s matching policies.
To take advantage of employer donation matching, first check if your company offers it, and then research what the stipulations and maximums are. Charitable matching is a huge asset for those fundraising: 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 than if they were giving individually, to take best advantage of the match.
Step 5: Partner with a local business.
If you’re the type who can organize and give time, consider hosting a fundraiser in partnership with a local business. 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. Spread the word in your neighborhood and find enticing ways to attract more visitors to the business. Doing this allows you to empower your community in more ways than one: You’ll help raise money for your cause, the business you’re partnering with will get a bump in traffic thanks to your word-of-mouth marketing and you’ll be bringing the community together.
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 whom their target audience is and how your cause overlaps with their marketing and branding goals (think good publicity).
Step 6: “Marie Kondo” your home.
Your gently used and no longer needed items can be another’s treasure, and your home can use the extra space. Twice a year, go through your closets and really ask yourself what you need and what can be given away. If you haven’t used it in the last year, consider giving it away to someone who needs it. Nonprofits like the Salvation Army and other charities accept gently used clothes and household items and then resell them for cheap, making them more accessible to people in your community living below the poverty line. In many cases, the majority of the profits also go to community empowerment projects.
Step 7: Get out there.
Still not sure what to do? Here are a few ideas to inspire action:
- Volunteer tutoring: Virtual learning has furthered the economic divide in America. Volunteering to help students who are falling behind in school is a great place to start.
- Fix and serve meals or stock food pantries: Soup kitchens and food pantries are always looking for volunteers to help. If you want more human connection, consider serving meals. If you’d rather work in the background, organizations are always looking for people to take inventory and organize donations.
- Reach out to neighbors: It can be as simple as spending time with an elderly neighbor who lives alone or cutting a single mom’s lawn. And you’ll immediately see the joy it brings.
- Help your family members who need it: Write or visit grandma, help your elderly aunt with grocery shopping or take your nieces and nephews for an outing to give their parents a break. Doing good starts at home.
There’s no better way to help than to get started. Whether it’s volunteering, fundraising or donating money, giving back to the community always makes a difference. Remember that every amount of help counts, and even starting small can make a big impact.