The holidays are a time to count our blessings and give back to those who don’t have as much to be thankful for. That’s why it’s also one of the most popular times of the year for charitable giving. In fact, one-third of all annual giving occurs in the last month of the year, earning December the title of National Giving Month. Not only do donations at this time of year help spread holiday cheer, but they also earn you tax benefits that can chip away at your yearly bill.
Luckily, donating money isn’t the only way to support your community and help those in need. There are so many amazing organizations that could use your donations or support as a volunteer during the busy holiday season. Here are some of the best ways to give back during National Giving Month and beyond.
- Special Surprises: Donate a Care Package — Giving someone in need a personalized care package is an incredible way to bring joy and smiles year-round, but especially during the holidays. Donate a cuddly stuffed animal care package to a sick child or work with one of the many organizations sending packages to soldiers abroad. You can also send a care package for someone in the hospital or a nursing home.
- Toys for Tots: Donate Surprises from Santa — Spread holiday cheer and make a child’s Christmas wishes come true by donating toys to a charitable organization. Toys for Tots is one of the original holiday toy drive groups, but there are many local and national organizations with similar missions. If you want to do even more, consider organizing a toy drive within your school, church, workplace or neighborhood.
- Comforting Flavors: Donate a Holiday Dinner Basket — According to the USDA, 10 percent of American households are considered food insecure, meaning they are uncertain if they will have food or are unable to acquire enough for all members of their household. This is especially true during the holiday season when other costs compound. Consider donating a holiday dinner box with everything a family might need to cook a special holiday feast. Add turkey, ham, stuffing mix, macaroni and cheese and produce such as yams, potatoes and green beans. Don’t forget the fixings for dessert!
- Serving Smiles: Volunteer at the Food Bank — Volunteering with the local food bank is another excellent way to lessen the number of food insecure people within your community during the holidays. Food bank volunteers may help with all sorts of duties during their volunteer time, from delivering meals to people in need to sorting and packing boxes for pickup. You should also consider donating food or funds to ensure that the operation runs smoothly.
- Pets in Need: Help Your Local Animal Shelter — The holidays can be an especially busy time for animal welfare organizations who deal with an overflow due to animals given as gifts and other issues. This makes it a great time to step in and help with donations, volunteer time or monetary gifts. As a volunteer, you may be tasked with walking dogs, cleaning crates or helping acclimate adoptees with their new family members.
- Carol for a Cause: Go Christmas Caroling for Donations — If you’ve got a group who loves to sing, consider spreading the holiday cheer by singing Christmas carols for tips. Whether you go around the neighborhood or host an event at a local theater or community center, you’re sure to delight crowds and earn big tips that you can donate to your preferred cause.
- Closet and Pantry Cleanout: Do Some Winter Cleaning — Many of us have much more than we need, but we typically don’t spend the busy holiday season cleaning out our things to donate. But remember that this time of year is a great time to donate food and clothing (especially outerwear) that you don’t need anymore. Make sure to donate to the local food bank, emergency housing or a charity thrift shop to ensure that your items go to the right place.
- Winter Warmth: Host a Coat Drive — Winter is an especially tough time of year for those experiencing homelessness or financial vulnerability, especially in colder climates. The cold and snow require heavier duty gear, which is often too expensive for many families to accommodate. In addition to donating your old winter gear, consider holding a coat drive to help encourage members of your community or workplace to donate as well. People in need could use warm coats, raincoats, winter boots, gloves, scarves, hats and base layers.
- Be an Elf: Answer Letters from Santa — If you’ve ever dreamed of being one of Santa’s elves for a day, you may want to sign up for the USPS’ Operation Santa Program. This program lets volunteers adopt letters from children all over America. Read letters and wish lists from kids, break out the naughty or nice meter and reply in your best Santa voice!
- Workplace Joy: Bring Presents to Seasonal Workers — While we’re all enjoying the great food and quality time with our family, our community’s essential workers are plugging away at work. Hospitals, emergency services, transportation and even some restaurants and retail establishments stay open on holidays. Bringing them gifts is one of the best ways to make them feel appreciated and to help them celebrate the season despite having to work. Consider dropping off plates of food, desserts or small gifts.
The holidays are undoubtedly one of the most joyous times of year, and volunteering or donating is an amazing way to spread the holiday cheer!