With #GivingTuesday right around the corner, thinking of others is likely to be at the forefront of many people’s minds. Unfortunately, the timing of Giving Tuesday and other holiday donations don’t always jive with people’s budgets time of year. While I would—and do—argue that everyone should include charitable giving in their budgets year round, it is also worth remembering that kindness costs nothing. Here are some of my favorite ways to give without dipping into my wallet.
Rehome Dress Clothes
If you aren’t sure what to do with your dress clothes, there are some options besides doing a Goodwill drop off. Many schools will accept men’s button-down shirts and ties. They may even accept old suits or dresses. They’re perfect for growing teens who sprout like weeds. Not only are families in need of dress clothes around the holidays, having access to formal wear like this helps teens feel welcome at end-of-year dances. To find out if your school is in need, ask to speak to a counselor or social worker. These individuals will likely have a better understanding of the need than front office staff who man the phone lines or answer generic emails. If your school doesn’t accept these items yet, you might ask them what other ways you can assist their free-and-reduced lunch families or check for local women’s shelters or other programs who accept formalwear and businesswear.
Downsize Your Library
If you have books that your family is done reading, you might consider dropping them off at a local library or school. When contacting schools, it is sometimes more effective to contact teachers (or English departments) directly by phone. One of my happiest days as a teacher was when a parent let me know that he had a few books for my classroom library if I wanted them. The next day, he wheeled in five moving boxes with a dolly. I shudder to think of a firewall or spam filter swallowing that opportunity. There are other organizations like Bernie’s Book Bank in Chicagoland that give new life to used books and help children and teens gain access reading material.
Dust Off Your Jackets
You’d be hard-pressed to find a mall, grocery store, or business that isn’t doing a coat drive this time of year. While new items are always welcome, many coat drives also request gently used items if you read the fine print. If you have coats, jackets, scarves, or mittens that you or anyone in your family has outgrown or forgotten, consider giving them a new purpose and passing them along. As you comb through your closets, you might also want to corral your old towels and linens to see if your local animal shelter has a need for them.
Write a Letter
Who doesn’t love snail mail? Actually, don’t tell me. It breaks my heart to think that someone wouldn’t be absolutely elated to receive an old-fashioned letter or card. That’s probably why I adore organizations like Operation Gratitude that encourage people to give their thanks to veterans, active service members, new recruits, and first responders all year. If you’re looking to save on postage, there are plenty of hospitals and nursing homes in every community that are filled with people who would love a little more cheer in their days.
Give Your Time
There is no limit to when and where you can give your time. From after-school programs at local libraries to fundraisers at animal shelters, virtually every organization can benefit from a helping hand. If you’re worried about committing on a regular basis due to inconsistent schedules or other issues, don’t underestimate the power of starting right next door. Bring in someone’s mail. Rake a neighbor’s leaves. Drop by to see someone who is ailing or celebrating. A little time goes a long way.
Final Thoughts on Kindness
In an ideal world, everyone would be able to eagerly embrace #GivingTuesday and any other charitable request with open arms and open wallets. But money isn’t the only way to make a lasting impact. Sometimes, you just have to roll up your sleeves, clean out your closets, muster a little creativity, and get out in your community. After all, there is only as much good in the world as we are willing to put into it.
So Tell Me…What are your favorite ways to give back?
My wife is a teacher, and ran the grade school library for a couple of years, so we have plenty of opportunities to contribute in-kind goods to help meet needs for the school and it’s students. It is truly a joy to see repurposed items used by students and their families with the same joy we felt when we originally got the items.
One of the more under served organizations in our area is the local Humane Society. This time of year folks naturally tend to focus on charities that serve people and that leaves animals out in the cold (figuratively, and unfortunately sometimes literally). Our local shelter is a “no-kill” facility and can always use food, cleaning supplies and helping hands (in addition to money). I’m sure many other similarly situated shelters find donations hard to come by during the holidays and I would encourage folks to remember our furry little friends as well during this season of giving.
Yes! We always give to our animal shelters, and we try to be especially generous this time of year. It’s so sad to hear how many animals end up at shelters right after the holidays.
I am so bad at charitable giving. I can totally afford to do it, but I look at the money and think that I would rather see it growing my net worth than going to charity. (So greedy!) Your regular posts about charitable giving are definitely pushing me to be more generous!
You made my day with this comment! I completely understand your thoughts. It’s instinctual, right? Take care of yourself first. For me, though, I felt like I finally “arrived” financially when I really could afford to start worrying more about helping others than myself!
Vickie@Vickie's Kitchen and Garden
I love all your ideas! Every year I seem to do something different. This year I’m crocheting hats and scarves for the homeless. Little things matter.
That is so thoughtful, Vickie! I wish I had an ounce of that kind of talent. Thank you for sharing your gift with others.
I agree with both Oldster, about supporting local animal charities, and with Solitary Diner, that we can definitely do more. Although we do focus on giving money more than time, it’s still not enough.
There’s a local kids’ charity we’ve been giving to “in kind” every year. They hold a bicycle drive for children with families who don’t have the means to purchase them. We buy two new bikes (a boy’s and a girl’s) at Walmart and bring them over to the designated drop off place. It’s a lot of fun. And this charity is totally dependent on donations — no government grants and very little goes towards overhead. I urge people to check on that either through Charity Navigator or my favorite — Guidestar.
The other program I love is Samaritan’s Purse — Operation Christmas Child. Talk about a little effort going a long way. We’ve not been consistent every year but we’ve participated a few times.
This is all awesome, Mrs. G! I will definitely click around the interwebs. I wonder if we have a similar program or could do something with bicycles in my area!
Right now, I focus my giving on donating my professional skills to a nonprofit that needs them. My financial contributions are much smaller than I’d like, but I will be raising them as soon as it is safe to.
I love that you give your professional skills, ZJ. That’s invaluable!
Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life
I make it a point to give even if it hurts because we are incredibly fortunate. Even if it feels like every dollar is only worth a quarter here, and everything costs thousands, we still have dollars. I batch prioritize: cash and in-kind donations to animal shelters and rescue organizations, organizations that feed the needy, rehome clothes so they get an additional life, literacy programs, and disaster relief efforts. We should donate in smaller amounts through the year so they’re not just getting once a year donations but I’m not quite organized enough for that yet. We may go to a quarterly system in 2018 – it’s worth a try!
I love the idea of a quarterly system. And your right about realizing what we do already have. I was asking my husband if he cared if I bought another gift card for a gift card drive to help families at my school. He looked and me and said, “If you’re buying presents for people this year, of course we should help out.”
He’s so smart. 😉