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Creative Ways to Give Back

huddle of hands giving back

Maya Angelou was right on the money when she said, “No one has ever become poor from giving.” If a tight budget has you hunting for creative ways to give this Thanksgiving, read our list of ideas for giving back that stretch beyond the traditional.

Fundraise Without Raising a Finger

Support local nonprofits and schools through “passive giving” programs. Check with your favorite charitable organizations to see if they have fundraising partnerships with area businesses. In some cases, a local business might donate a portion of sales to area nonprofits during the holidays. Some online marketplaces, such as Amazon Smile, also will donate a portion of the purchase price on qualifying products to the charitable organization of your choice at no cost to you.

Lend a Hand to Little Ones

Children’s hospitals have many volunteer opportunities that range from rocking newborns in need of a cozy cuddle to adding to the hospital’s arsenal of inexpensive art supplies and games.

Organize a Food Drive

Enlist your neighbors in your effort to give back and offer to handle logistics. Pass out fliers listing suggested donation items, your on-porch pickup time and the local food bank or shelter where you will deliver the donations on your block’s behalf.

Reconnect With an Old Friend

Take the time to warm some hearts (yours included) by writing a letter to a pal with whom you’ve lost touch.

Do Some Dogs and Cats Some Good

Donate used blankets and towels to a local animal shelter, bake homemade doggie treats, volunteer your lap for cat-sitting or consult national organizations such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) for tips on becoming an animal activist in your community.

Thank Your Mother (Earth)

Adopt or step up an eco-friendly habit for a week, month or the entire holiday season. Toting your own reusables, such as travel mugs and cloth shopping bags, goes a long way.

Pick a Yoga Class With a Purpose

Check out donation-based yoga classes or other exercise classes that give back to local charities and needy communities.

Walk Your Talk

Get moving during the holidays despite the changing weather. Check sites such as Run for Charity for local “turkey trots,” then walk or run for a cause or volunteer at an aide station.

Get Sweet on Local Firefighters

Treat the brave souls of your local fire station with baked goods or trade them some ice cream sandwiches for a ride-along.

Hook up Low-Income Neighborhoods

Kick down your old (but not ancient) computer equipment to a community center when you upgrade.

Sack Hunger for a Night

Brown bag a meal or two for the homeless. Also check with local shelters for guidance on what people in your area need most. Warm socks and travel-size toiletries such as toothpaste and hand soap are little luxuries that are often overlooked and greatly appreciated.

Lend Your Pooch

Check with local children’s hospitals, nursing homes and hospice programs regarding dog-assisted therapy programs. Your dog will need to undergo thorough screening, but it’s worth the effort to spread warm-and-furry feelings.

Save a Neighbor Some Dough

If meter maids heavily decorate vehicles with parking tickets, post a handmade warning sign out front on street-sweeping days or other times that garner the most citations.

Give Season-Stressed Parents a Time-Out

Volunteer to watch a friend’s children so he or she can accomplish a little kid-free holiday shopping (or simply enjoy a very silent night).

Adopt a Flowerbed

Beautify a little corner of your city by volunteering to fill a flowerbed with blooms and keep it free of litter and weeds. Or check your community garden for winter-weather volunteer opportunities to give back.

Employ Your Skills to Help the Jobless

Giving back is easier when you apply your own skills and talents. Share your computer software skills or resume-building knowledge with job-seekers at your local library or community center. Or search for ways to extend opportunities to those in need. Did you know, as part of his movie contracts, Robin Williams required each studio to hire five homeless people?

Create a Lawn Library

Plant a little free library in your front yard to get neighbors on the same page regarding sharing, reading and enriching your community.

Give the Gift of Life

Help save someone’s life by donating blood or plasma. Or, if you’re a nursing mama, become a breast milk donor to aide premature, critically ill and otherwise milk-needy babies. Look online for nonprofit milk banks in your area.

Entertain the Elderly

Visit a nursing home to spend some hang-time with residents who would love a companion for reading, letter writing, taking a stroll, using a computer, storytelling, warm-hug giving and more.

Get Kids Hooked on Books

Read to children or volunteer as a mentor or tutor to help spark a child’s inner bookworm. Check in with your local library, nurseries, schools and organizations such as United Way that connect volunteer readers with kids in need of a read.

Plan a Day of Giving

Break $5, $10 or $20 into dollar bills and give them away throughout the day to those who could use a buck. Perhaps even lend an ear and listen to their story. You just might change the course of someone’s day with your generosity.

Buy a Ticket to Ride

Purchase a booklet of bus transit passes that can be used any time. Then make the rounds to area bus stops, handing out passes to people who could use the break.

Spread the Words

Donate your gently loved books to those in need of a good read such as neighborhood libraries, nursing homes or organizations such as Books for Soldiers.

Give Your Undivided Attention

Unplug from technology and media for a couple hours per day and give full focus to your children, significant other, friends, pets and even yourself. Start small by stashing your phone under a couch cushion or hiding the remote for an evening and let the fun unfold.

Throw Down a Charity Challenge

Share this article on social media along with ways you are giving back. Then challenge your friends and followers to do the same.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]