How to Give Back This Holiday Season

charity, donations, christmas

While a charitable heart is fashionable year-round, I usually find myself with an even stronger urge to give back during the holiday season. Maybe it’s the spirit of Christmas running through my veins. Maybe I secretly want to be Santa Claus when I grow up. Or maybe it’s all the family get togethers and presents under the tree that remind me just how lucky I am. I’m not rolling in the money. I won’t be making it rain up in here. But, I have everything I need. So when the holidays come around, I’m eager to share my good fortune with others.

If you have a similar urge this season (or any season), here are a few ways that you can give back:

1. Adopt a Family

If you too have always wanted to be Santa, then here’s your chance. Adopt a family for Christmas and make their holiday dreams come true by buying them clothes, toys, and necessities that every family needs. The Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family program runs every year, but you could also check with your local social service providers, shelters, or churches.

2. Buy Some Toys for Tots

If you can’t afford to sponsor an entire family for Christmas, you can still play Santa for one or two children. Toys for Tots has collection centers all over the country where you can drop off brand new, unwrapped toys for children who might not receive a gift otherwise. And if you’re hosting a holiday party, why not get everybody in the charitable spirit by asking each guest to bring a toy to donate. Then you Santas can really enjoy your adult milk and cookies.

3. Be a Secret Santa

Not everybody is made for the limelight. So for you shyer people, Secret Santa may be more your style. Soldier’s Secret Santa is an organization that helps bring a little bit of Christmas cheer to those children who are missing their parents this holiday season. Deployment is tough on everybody, but these donations help make their Christmas just a little bit brighter.

4. Mail Some Holiday Cheer to Our Soldiers

So many service men and women are deployed over the holidays, but you can also help brighten their Christmas by sending a little something through the Red Cross’ Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Even the simplest greeting card can have a monumental effect. So bust out your craft making skills and mail a little holiday cheer.

5. Clean Out Your Pantry

Of course, giving back this season doesn’t have to mean spending oodles of money that you may not have. The mere act of cleaning out your pantry can lead to the most charitable donations. Grab all those canned goods that you won’t ever eat or have too many of and donate them to your local food pantry to help feed those in need this holiday season. Check out Feeding America to find a food bank close to you.

6. Feed the Homeless

As everyone gets ready to enjoy their holiday feasts, it’s the perfect time to give back to those who may not have a place at the table this year. Volunteer at the local food kitchen. Donate your holiday leftovers. Or make something special for that homeless man that you pass on the street every day.

7. Visit Senior Citizens

Many senior citizens can’t keep up with the hustle and bustle of daily life, let alone their tech savy family members who use smart phones and Twitter to keep in touch. Because of this, many senior citizens often feel depressed and lonely during the holiday season. But, you can offer them the companionship they crave. Visit a senior center, retirement home, or hospital to give a senior citizen the gift of your time. I guarantee they have some awesome stories to share.

8. Make a Furry Friend

Our furry friends need some love over the holidays, too. If you’re thinking of adding to your family this Christmas, consider rescuing a dog or cat from your local shelter. And if you’re not expanding your family, you can still visit the local shelter to donate your time to the sweet furballs who are still waiting to be adopted. Take them for a walk. Play with them. Dote on them. And remind them that they will find their forever home soon.

9. Gift Donations

There’s always that one person on your Christmas list who has everything or likes nothing. It can seem impossible to find the perfect gift for them. Well, if you have a few of those people on your list too, consider making a donation in their name to their favorite charity or cause. Whether that’s animal welfare, ending child hunger, medical research, or theater arts, there are plenty of amazing causes to choose from.

10. Perform Acts of Kindness

Sometimes the smallest acts of kindness can spread the greatest joy. This season, look for small opportunities to spread holiday cheer around your community. Buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks. Hand out care packages for the homeless. Bake some goodies for your neighbors. Leave your waiter a generous tip. Or buy a homeless person a hot meal. There are opportunities for kindness every where you look. Embrace them.

Giving back doesn’t have to be just for the holiday season. Wear your charitable heart year-round. Donate. Volunteer. And perform acts of kindness during every season. I guarantee the shelters, food banks, and people will appreciate the help throughout the year.

What are your favorite ways to give back during the holidays? Share your ideas below!
  • Lovely post and so important to give back especially at this time of the year x

    • Thank you. 🙂 I agree, it’s so important to remember to give back, especially when we’re so fortunate compared to some.

  • such great ideas 🙂 you’re so thoughtful.

  • oh I LOVE this post! I’m going to use the write a letter to soldiers idea at my mentoring program next week! Thanks for sharing!

  • One of my favorite things about the holiday season is that there are so many ways to help out. From passive giving of money to Salvation Bell Ringers to the more active rescue drives at animal shelters. I think when people have kindness all around them it makes the season much more enjoyable.

    • You definitely hit the nail on the head! Kindness makes everything so much better. But, it’s definitely much easier to embrace kindness this season.

  • These are all lovely ideas. I always get pretty soft-hearted when it comes to giving, and I think those feelings get amplified by the holiday season. I have a blog on tumblr, and whenever posts come up on my dash about specific individuals in need, I try to send a small donation their way. Guess that would fall under random acts of kindness. 🙂

    • That’s so sweet of you! I think random acts of kindness, especially donations to those who are struggling, are a great way to give back. It’s amazing how even the smallest donations can be a big help. 🙂

  • I love this list!!!! I am hosting a food drive for my local blogging community and I volunteer at the humane society. Every year the HS comes up with a wish list that they share with the community on Amazon and I hope to grab a few things for them there too!

    • You are so awesome for giving back! 🙂 I can’t even imagine how much work it is to host a food drive. I hope it’s a roaring success.

  • “What are your favorite ways to give back during the holidays?”

    We always make sure to get a little extra cash while grocery shopping for the Salvation Army bell-ringers. We also participate in food drives and donate to Toys for Tots and other giving tree drives. We also donate to Doctors Without Borders and Heifer, International.

    I love this list, and I am inspired to participate in as many as possible this year and in the coming years. Thank you so much for writing this, Lynsey. Excellent post.

    • Doctors Without Borders and Heifer International are wonderful organizations to donate to! I love that idea.

      Thank you for sharing your favorite ways to give back. You are amazing for giving back in so many different ways. And I hope others will be inspired to give back, too.

  • This is such a lovely post. Giving back at this time of year is especially important and some of your ideas have really inspired me, so thank you for posting!x

  • kathy @ vodka and soda

    yes to giving back!! it’s so important to give back regularly, not just during the holidays.

    • Definitely! Many people forget that giving back can be done all year, not just at the end of it. 🙂

  • these are such wonderful, generous ideas!!! thanks for sharing your kind heart!

  • We do Toys for Tots every year and next year we’re adding adopt a family to our list. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for awhile and we’ll finally be able to afford to do it.

    We try and do stuff throughout the year, too, even if it’s making a small donation to the United Way through an activity at the child’s school. I want to learn to sew pillowcases so I can contribute to the million pillowcase challenge.

    • That’s awesome! It’s so amazing that you give back all year-round. 🙂 It’s easy to learn how to sew pillowcases. I’m sure you’d have no problem contributing to that challenge.

  • Yes! I love giving back! We get trees, decorate them and deliver them as well as adopt the family the tree goes with. Food drives, etc but I really like the idea about sending greeting cards and stuff to the soldiers. This is something I have not done but I think we will do it this year.

    • I’ve never thought of donating decorated trees. That’s an awesome idea! Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

  • Great list! I love doing random acts of kindness! My favorite is to go through a Starbucks drive-thru and pay for the car behind me! I also like to take one of the names off the foster children’s tree and buy a gift for them. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside when I know I can make someone else’s day happy!

    • Aw, you are awesome! It sounds like you spread a lot of joy and kindness around. We could all use a little bit more of that in our lives. 🙂

  • Such a great reminder and roundup! We do a toys for tots drive at my barre studio it is such a great cause!

    • It really is! Just imagine those little faces lighting up on Christmas. 🙂

  • Teaching my children the art of giving is how I’m giving back this year. Maybe we’ll volunteer next year. Wish we were more committed to doing it year round though.

    • That sounds like a wonderful way to give back! It’s so important for children to learn about giving. I’m sure as they grow older it will become easier to give back year-round because it can be a family activity. 🙂