Take a step back from the hectic pace and stress-inducing expectations of the holidays to remember the season of giving. You don’t have to make a grand gesture or spend a lot to pay it forward with a give back. Give backs can be local or international, to those you know, or strangers.
To easily organize a group project, use a free online tool like Sign Up Genius and Take Them A Meal. We’ve got more give back ideas on Pinterest and Instagram.
1. Collect non-perishables for the food bank
Food banks are especially in need over the holiday season. Give as a group or family to your local shelter or food bank. Consider giving again around New Year’s to help replenish for the hard winter months. Collect as a family, workplace, club or church.
2. Babysit for harried young parents
The busyness of the holidays includes the crazy school and activities calendar. Who has time to shop, clean, cook? Help out a young family or single parent.
3. Mend fences and build bridges
The holidays are the perfect time to restore a friendship or relationship. Ask forgiveness or give it. It’s a give back for yourself and others.
4. Leave a kind note on a windshield or desk
The stress and expectations of the holiday season can lead to seasonal depression. Be a source of random acts of encouragement to brighten someone’s day!
5. Give small fast food gift cards to the homeless
Keep a few in your car and hand them out as you encounter people in need.
6. Bring blankets, dog food or toys to the animal shelter
Bring some goodies and reap the rewards of furry snuggles. Ask your local shelter what their immediate needs are, so they don’t get five hundred tennis balls.
7. Volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen
Find a shelter that’s small and maybe struggling for help. Take the family or a group of co-workers to share in the beauty of serving others.
8. Write an encouraging letter or email
Is there someone you haven’t talk to in a while? Let them know you’re thinking of them. Again, it’s a free but meaningful way to pour into someone’s life.
14. Call your mom
Seriously. Call her. Or grandma. Or an old friend. Do it.
10. Treat coworkers to holiday goodies
Don’t wait for the official Christmas party. Just bring in some treats on a random day to thank the people who put up with you day after day.
11. Visit a nursing home
Many elderly people have relatives who don’t live close enough to visit daily. Spend some time hearing about their lives and experiences. You might be surprised at the interesting places and events they’ve witnessed.
12. Send a military care package
Being deployed means missing out on family events. The holiday season can be especially hard. So fill a box of Christmas cheer for one or two service personnel. It’s good to know what’s allowed in a package. You can send a pre-made package or pre-pay phone calls home through the USO. If your budget is limited, join Soldiers’ Angels to send cards.
13. Spread cheer by caroling
If you enjoy singing, caroling really brings the feels. There’s something sentimental about those classic tunes that brings smiles and humming along. If you’re a terrible singer, mouth the word “watermelon” while your group sings for real.
14. Donate at the blood bank
When you give blood or plasma, you’re giving the gift of life. The biggest blood bank is the American Red Cross. You can find more at America’s Blood Centers, where they track the supply and needs all across the country.
15. Bring holiday breakfast to the fire or police station
Being on shift Christmas day is a bummer for public servants. It’s a great thing to bring hot pastries and goodies, plus the kids might get to check out the engines or squad cars.
16. Adopt a family in need
Losing a job or a loved one during the holidays can make the season miserable. Show some love by buying gifts, bringing meals and lending support.
17. Compliment people
Give back by giving out genuine compliments. It’s such a nice way to build up people. Check out the Happier list of 100 compliments for ideas.
18. Shovel snow for a disabled or elderly neighbor
Heavy snow is dangerous to move for those with weak hearts and bad backs. If you have a neighbor who shouldn’t be shoveling, give back by taking that responsibility. It’s the essence of community.
19. Wrap gifts for a busy mom
Online shopping has saved many a busy person, but the gifts still have to be wrapped. How cool would it be to help out a harried mom with beautifully wrapped gifts? For an easy distinction between kids, try using one wrapping paper for each child based on their interests (e.g. movie characters, super heroes).
20. Smile and say hello
Like a compliment, a smile is affirming. A hello is even better. Like Crocodile Dundee, say “G’Day” to everyone you meet and enjoy the reactions. Maybe they’ll start spreading the smiles as well!
21. Surprise a toll booth worker
Holidays are hard for a lot of workers, especially those dealing with crabby travelers. With your coins, include some chocolate ones. Keep some packaged treats in your car, in case you meet these hard-working people. Other professions stuck on the job that you can surprise are public transportation workers, hotel staff, clergy, tow truck drivers and urgent care/ER staff (hopefully, you won’t need these folks).
22. Give gifts to needy kids
The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program is a great way to give as a group or individual. Other good charities that give children Christmas gifts are the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots, BeanElf (fulfilling Santa letters!), and My Two Front Teeth. Or, pack a shoebox gift for a child in need here in America or in a land far away — it’s pretty cool to track each box to its final destination.
23. Donate to disaster relief
It’s been a tough year here in the U.S. and around the world. Give to a credible international relief organization with a proven track record, such as Charity Water, Samaritan’s Purse, and the Salvation Army. Find more on Guidestar and BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance.
24. Pay off someone’s layaway
Got someone in front of you in the layaway line who clearly needs some help? Wait until they go and then pay off their balance if it’s something you can afford. They’ll never know it’s you, but it will be an incredible gift.
25. Give a goat
The adage of teaching a man to fish to eat for a lifetime is what’s behind this charity movement. Donating towards a cow, goat or other income-producing animal can mean financial survival for a family in a developing nation or distressed area of the US. Organizations that do this are Heifer International, World Vision, Samaritans Purse and Oxfam.
26. Take a meal to a sick friend
Getting sick over the holidays is a serious bummer. Make life a little easier by taking a meal and/or organizing meals with other people. Always ask about dietary restrictions. Your gluten free, dairy free, soy free, meat free, fun free (jk, people!) friends will thank you.
27. Donate clothing
Local TV/radio stations, cleaners and charity outlets such as the United Way start collecting coats in October. You can do your own coat drive through One Warm Coat. Shelters need warm clothing for kids and adults. In warmer climates, give light jackets and rain boots (because wet socks are no fun!) in addition to clothing.
28. Splurge on a big tip
Write a nice note on the receipt and put in a generous tip (over 20 percent). Don’t wait for thanks, just put it out when you leave. You’ll leave with a smile and they’ll be pleasantly surprised.
29. Donate books to a school or senior center
Paper books are making a comeback with millennials and they’re no less popular in schools and care centers. Books and magazines are also welcome at long-term physical rehab centers and hospitals.
30. Visit a prisoner
Changing a life can start with a simple visit. If you’re comfortable with entering a prison, there are many who would appreciate a visit. Prisoner Visitation & Support volunteers at local, state, federal and military prisons. Prison Fellowship has a program to give gifts to the children of inmates.
31. Bake and share cookies
There’s some serious joy in a holiday cookie. Share with neighbors, the senior center, or a shelter to spread some cheer.
32. Help someone move
Moving is terrible. Moving during the holidays? Even worse. When your weary new neighbor arrives two days before Christmas, give them a hand and/or invite them over for dinner (because no one knows what box the pots and pans are in).
33. Bring new toys to a children’s hospital
New, unwrapped toys you bring to the local children’s hospital are always welcome, but a huge need is definitely around Christmas. Toys left over (if any) get saved for birthdays and other events.
34. Donate possessions to charity
While you’re decluttering for the new stuff that’s coming in, take those once-prized possessions to the local donation center. You’re providing jobs and affordable goods to others.
35. Help a neighbor with errands
If you ask around, there’s probably someone in the neighborhood who’s a shut-in or shouldn’t be driving. Offer to run errands as you have time. It could be the start of a beautiful friendship. If someone needs more than you can handle, organize a community group to sign up for tasks or help.
36. Do a 5K that raises money for charity
Get out your Santa suit and run like the Grinch is after you! Find a race near you at Active or Eventbrite.
Many of us are blessed to own a home, have jobs and enjoy the the holidays with family. The holiday season is a reminder to give back to those in need, those who are lonely and those who are busy serving others. It’s amazing how much cheer simple acts of kindness and generosity can bring!
Redefy Real Estate saves sellers thousands with #flatfee listings. Spend your savings on more important things — like presents, cookies and giving back during the holidays!
#RedefyCares and as a company we value giving back to our community. This holiday season we’ll be participating in Angel Tree, donating food and more!