For many of us, the holidays bring out our good sides, making our hearts swell with generosity, causing us to feel grateful for all that we have, and making us eager to help neighbors, friends, and even strangers in need. It’s the season of giving, after all. But how can you give to others when you’re struggling yourself?

9 ways to give your time and effort.

Good news: giving doesn’t have to be financial, and it’s easier to make a difference in your community than you might think. Here are nine wonderful ways to give—now and all year long—that won’t cost you much more than your time and effort.

1. Talk up an organization you care about.

Nominate your favorite charity for an award. Contact your local news organization or radio station about that spectacular event your organization is holding or the great work they’ve done this past year. Tweet out a kudos or post a nice comment about them on Facebook for a bit of free advertising. And apply the same ideas to a local business you want to help. Write them up on Yelp, spread the word, or offer to help them another way.

2. Become a regular volunteer.

Many charitable organizations have minimal staff and rely on the help of volunteers to keep their doors open. Reach out to an organization of your choice and ask how you can assist. They may even have a website describing specific roles with which they especially need help.

3. Volunteer at critical times.

While the holidays may feel like the right time to lend a hand, if you really want to help, ask your charity of choice when they’re especially strapped for manpower. If you have a flexible schedule, you could offer to be put on their call list for short-notice assistance.

4. Be a friend to a neighbor in need.

Look around your neighborhood for ways to help the people who make up your community. Take your elderly neighbor grocery shopping, or offer to do it for her from time to time. Pass along your children’s secondhand clothing to a family nearby that’s facing hard times.

5. Volunteer at school.

There are likely many ways you can help out your college or university if you’re a student. Possibilities include becoming a tutor, getting involved with “helping” organizations on campus, organizing campus fundraising or other events (such as a food drive or charity walk), or even volunteering at an office that needs extra hands (whether that’s the disability services office, the counseling office, or another area). If you’re a parent, volunteering at your child’s school or in his or her classroom is a fun and easy way to make a positive impact.

6. Give away things you no longer need.

Many charities that help children and families need clothing, household items, and much more, and are happy to take secondhand things. Do some research and find programs that would welcome your donations.

7. Don’t forget other things organizations need.

Many charities have a long list of items they need posted on their websites. However, if you don’t see one, call up the organization and ask them what they need aside from cash donations. Here on the Front Range, a few examples include the Larimer Humane Society, the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, The Inn Between of Longmont, Denver Children’s Home and Catholic Charities, which all maintain wish lists of things they especially need.

8. Donate blood.

Bonfils Blood Center here in Colorado needs thousands of donors every week to meet the needs of the community. There are seven donor centers in the metro area and a dozen mobile blood drives around town each day, so if you’re eligible to donate, giving blood is a safe and easy way to support your community.

9. Invest in your own children.

Don’t forget that you are doing the world a great service by raising your children to be good citizens and people. Teach them to be compassionate, honest, and hardworking. Show them how they can make their communities better. And help them understand the importance of giving back and helping one another.

Now, your turn. What do you do to give back when you can’t give financially?


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