11 Ways to Give Back to Your Community

It’s easy to get disheartened about the world these days. Just pick up a newspaper or jump online and we’re bombarded with all the ways in which humanity sucks. Here’s the thing: I believe in the good in people. I see it every day. I sometimes think we’re just at a loss on how to give back to our communities.

give back

We’re all busy people. Let’s just get that out of the way. We are all busy people, but most of us are still eager to find a way to give back, we just don’t know how. Many of us are somewhat cash-strapped, particularly in this economy. So, if you’re short on money and time, you think you can’t give back, right?

Wrong.

Giving back can be easy or it can be time intensive. It can cost a lot or it can cost nothing.

Spend Your Dollars Wisely

When you do have the ability to give money to an organization, spend it wisely. In my opinion, that means putting your money to the organization as a whole, not to a specific project. If you’ve ever heard Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk (The Way in Which We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong), you know that he makes a phenomenal case for why we should give our dollars to ‘administration’ or fundraising. I’m not going to go into that in detail, seeing as I’ve written a whole post about it. Suffice to say that I truly believe that if you should let the non-profit direct your dollars to where THEY see their biggest need, be it training and development, programming, fundraising or what have you. Trust that they know what they need to achieve their mission better than you do.

Clean House

I do literally mean to clean your house. If you’re short on dollars to donate, why not take this opportunity to go through your home and find items for donation? Organizations like Goodwill thrive from selling gently used clothing, home goods and more. I bet if you drive around your community you’ll see a dozen different clothing donation boxes, be it for the Kidney Foundation, Salvation Army or any number of charitable organizations. Put those clothes that you no longer wear (provided they’re not on their last legs) to good use.

Hands-on Volunteerism

Someone has to stuff those envelopes. Someone needs to serve up meals at a shelter. Consider carving out just a bit of time each month to lend a hand. It may seem like you’re not doing much, but I guarantee you’re making a big difference to your chosen organization.

Skills-based Volunteerism

You may not have a lot of money to given, but I bet you have a skill to share. Whether you’re a financial whizz or an artist, there is an organization out there that can put your skills to good use. Potentially consider becoming a board member for your favourite non-profit, but before you apply, make sure you chat to a staff member about what they are looking for in a board member. Make sure that you realistically are providing value.

Become a Mentor

This is kind of along the lines of skills-based volunteerism, but on a one-to-one level. Each one teach one. Whether you become a mentor to someone at your workplace, in your personal life, or at your alma mater, someone can benefit from your experience.

Turn a Celebration into a Fundraiser

Perhaps this is the year that you forgo Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, anniversary gifts or the like in favour of asking for donations to the non-profit of your choice. Getting married? In these days when couples are more likely to live together for a while before marriage, you likely have all you need for your home. Pick a charity as a couple and I guarantee you’ll feel great about your decision. And I bet people are more likely to spend more on a charitable donation than they would have on a gift.

Advocate for Change

There are so many changes that are needed in our government in order for those in need to receive life-changing services. Why not have a serious conversation with your favourite non-profit to find out what their biggest political challenge is and what you can do as a citizen to change it? Armed with this information, advocate for this change to your local government representative.

Think and Act Local

Shop at your local farmer’s market, or the family-run convenience store. Buy presents from local artisans or small-business owners on Etsy. Leave a freezer meal for that brand new mom down the street who is so tired she can’t conceive of cooking. Donate your breastmilk if you have extra supply. Shovel a neighbours’ driveway.

Give Blood

As the tag line goes from Canadian Blood Services, it’s in you to give. If you’re able to donate, make this a serious consideration. It just might be you or someone you love who is in need in future. Particularly around holidays is when the greatest needs arise. Besides, you get a free cookie!

Shop with a Social Enterprise

What is social enterprise, you might ask? It’s a business that operates with social good in mind. This could mean employing at-risk individuals, products being created by a group in need or profits supporting a non-profit. Google the name of your city and social enterprise and you might be surprised what comes up. If you’re buying that service or product anyways, why not buy it from a socially conscious organization?

Vote

Going back to the point on advocating, bring your voice to the table in elections. You are part of your community. Educate yourself on the parties involved, their platforms and how their platforms will impact social change. It’s easy to think that one vote doesn’t make a difference, but if millions of people think this way, we all lose.
For my part, this year I’m honing in on a particular charity that has helped me through a severe rough patch, figuring out how I can help them financially as well as how I can advocate for change. I will also be ridding my house of things I no longer need, but which can provide value for others.

So, how do you plan to give back to your community this year?  Share your give back goals in the comments below, or tag them on social media with #girltrieslife

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