Family Members Volunteering

For many families, holiday gift-giving includes donating money, as well as time and goods. With so many options to choose from, here are some guidelines for determining where your contribution is likely to have the impact you intend.

Confirm Credibility

Some organizations are just more charitable than others. Sites like CharityWatch and GuideStar provide impartial rating systems for various organizations, so you can see how they compare in terms of the work they do and where the donations go. Charity Navigator is another source for comprehensive information and even provides a Giving Basket tool to help you set up and manage your donations.

Teach the Value of Giving

The holidays offer a great opportunity to get kids involved in the act of giving. Many families allot a certain percentage of their holiday budget for charitable donations and give each child a dollar amount to gift to the organization of their choice. To help your children participate in this type of tradition, start by discussing their interests and then help them to research related organizations. You can make the concept of donating more concrete for them by talking about what their donation will mean for that particular group. For example, if your child loves animals, they could donate to a wildlife conservation group working to preserve tiger habitats.

The Gift of Time

Not all charitable giving involves monetary amounts. Many organizations welcome all those willing and able to participate during this season. Again, there may be several options in your area to choose from. Start by researching those that align with your personal values and then contact the organization to assess their needs. For example, starting a canned-goods drive for a local food pantry at your office might be the most effective way to channel your efforts, while another organization may ask for help sorting donations. Sites like VolunteerMatch also work to connect potential volunteers with worthy causes in their areas.

Show Some Neighborly Spirit

You really don’t have to go far to find ways to spread goodwill. Opportunities can literally exist right outside your front door. The holidays are the perfect time to practice being a good neighbor. Consider shoveling a neighbor’s sidewalk or driveway on the next snowy day. Leave the makings for hot chocolate on doorsteps with a note wishing warm season’s greetings. Invite a few neighbors over, particularly anyone new to the area, for a potluck dinner. Little gestures can go a long way toward building strong, neighborly bonds.

There are many ways to give back during the holiday season. Once you identify those that resonate with you and your family, it can add meaning and enhance your annual traditions.

5 Simple Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer

  1.         Make a donation in a friend’s name.
  2.         Sponsor a neighborhood coat drive.
  3.         Take part in the U.S. Postal Service’s Operation Santa program.
  4.         Buy scratch-off lottery tickets for people in your office.
  5.         Leave a generous tip for your favorite server.