Got some vague idea that you’d like to do something charitable during the holidays? Here are some suggestions (and also some good info about how well-meaning efforts sometimes turn bad).
Photo by: c_nilsen
So many people want to volunteer during the holidays. This outpouring of generosity is wonderful but can sometimes be a challenge, as volunteer openings fill quickly–often months in advance–or nonprofits aren’t open on certain days since staff, who have been helping great causes year-round also want some time off to spend with their loved ones.
Good news: there is a lot of need, and you’re ready to help. But you want to do it the good way. (Read this first to find out how not to give: Seven Worst Ways to Give to Charity During the Holidays.
OK, ready to find your best giving back opportunity? Proceed:
I LOVE A PARTY
Add something original to that tacky-sweater-holiday-cookie party. Let’s face it–when bad mall stores are selling tacky sweaters, the idea has jumped the shark. Make your holiday fête have special meaning by including a charitable giving contest. You could pick three causes close to your family’s hearts, print out info cards and create a photo or video slideshow about each, and have kids make shoebox voting boxes. Charge some amount to get in, and have everyone vote on their favorite. Kids can serve guests, campaign for the cause they want, and count votes. The cause with the most votes wins the money, and your guests go home inspired.
MY KID WON’T GET OFF THE COMPUTER LONG ENOUGH TO DO ANYTHING
Play service games online with your kids to learn about causes.
- EcoKids has games on waste reduction and recycling
- DisasterMaster readies kids for emergency preparedness
- EnergyStar has hidden object, coloring, and word search with The Lorax–and sneaks in energy learning throughout
I WANT TO CREATE IT MYSELF
Want to make something truly yours? Visit the Create the Good projects library for step by step guides on how to create a service project together. With many causes, each person in your friend or family group can find something for them. There’s one about trash cleanup in rivers (and with this warm weather, totally possible right now). GenerationOn has tons of toolkits, fact sheets, and guides on self-mobilization geared towards kids and teens.
HURRY UP AND WAIT
The charitable community can get overwhelmed this time of year. You and yours could wait until January and use the New Year to kick off community service resolutions. Food pantries get thin, donations and gifts dry up, and the need is still there, year round. What if you made a plan to do something as a family regularly in 2016? Plot it all out now. Between school, lessons, and trips, you know that calendar will get full quickly if you don’t.
I LIKE SHOPPING
Ask your favorite cause for a wish list. Here are two to get you started:
CARITAS is well respected in Richmond for tackling homelessness and addiction issues. Setting up a new home can be quite expensive and overwhelming. Help a woman escaping domestic violence, or a refugee family new to the area find items to make their new house a home. Their furniture bank is the only one of its kind in Central Virginia. Express interest.
At The Doorways, patients and families have traveled far from home to receive medical treatment and a simple trip to the store can feel like a hurdle. The little necessities of home can help. They’re asking for donations of shampoo, soap, razors, tooth brushes, ground coffee and non-dairy creamer, liquid laundry detergent and more. Find out how to give.
WE CAN’T ALL LEAVE THE HOUSE AT ONCE
Do one of HandsOn’s1 Featured DIY projects that you can make at home, take to HandsOn, and let them deliver en masse to the nonprofit recipient (the holiday one’s already full–see, I told you).
* Medical Respite Care Packages for The Daily Planet
* Cancer Awareness Ribbons for Massey Cancer Center
* Mental Health Awareness Ribbons for NAMI Central Virginia
I STILL WANT MORE IDEAS
Download a guide on Alternative Ways to Volunteer this holiday or search all the options on www.handsonrva.org/holidayvolunteering.
Or you could just recreate this Christmas Gift Experiment from Britain. Invite me to come film it.
- Disclaimer: Holly works for HandsOn Greater Richmond, which is exactly the reason we thought she would know exactly what to suggest for this article. ↩