The Salvation Army bells ring at each grocery store right now as a gentle reminder that not everyone has a warm home, a loving family, a table full of food, or gifts under the tree during the holidays. And many of us want to help. Yet with the day-to-day busyness of working, mom-ing, and trying to create holiday magic for your own family, it’s tough to figure out where exactly to give back as well. There are so many amazing organizations that exist, and it can also be overwhelming to choose where to spend your time. Here are a few ways to help narrow your focus so choice-overload doesn’t prevent you from giving back this holiday season.
- Find an organization whose mission aligns most closely with your values.
- Think about the type of work you want to do. Do you want to be hands-on or behind the scenes? Do you want to work with a group of people, one-on-one, or do a project by yourself? Do you want to learn new skills or use the skills and talents you already have?
- Reality-check your availability to ensure you can follow through on your commitment.
You can also do your own research to find smaller local charities that don’t have the same national recognition. Websites like Volunteer Match, State Farm’s Neighborhood of Good, and the Volunteer Center at United Way will help you filter local volunteer opportunities based on your interests. Join local community pages on social media where smaller organizations often post wishlists and needs.
Below, we’ve linked to six national organizations — and provided their mission statements — where you can volunteer your time or donate. If their holiday calendars are full, remember that’s a good thing. Consider signing up in January since most of their needs don’t end after the holidays.
1. The American Red Cross
Their Mission: Prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
Giving blood, taking a life-saving training course, or volunteering are all great opportunities to give back. In fact, volunteers carry out 90 percent of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross.
2. Toys for Tots
Their Mission: Through the gift of a new toy, they help bring the joy of Christmas and send a message of hope to America’s less fortunate children.
Started in 1947 by a group of Marines in Los Angeles, Toys for Tots now has local campaigns happening all over the country. Many offer in-person volunteer opportunities to sort and distribute toys. If you’re looking for another way to donate, plan to purchase a few extra toys when you’re holiday shopping and drop them off at one of the many collection boxes in your area. If you’re looking for an opportunity focused on spreading Christmas cheer, this could be for you.
3. Feeding America
Their Mission: Together with individuals, charities, businesses, and government, we can end hunger.
The Feeding America network is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. According to their website, households with children are more likely to experience food insecurity, and more than 11 million children live in food-insecure households. Volunteers can help with food sorting, packing, administrative work, and in the spring and summer, even helping to glean farming fields for extra produce.
4. The Humane Society
Their Mission: We fight all forms of animal cruelty to achieve the vision behind our name: a humane society.
The Humane Society offers a variety of volunteer opportunities, from advocacy work you can do from home to being part of their Animal Rescue Team. If animals are your passion, remember many local animal shelters have specific wishlists that include blankets, towels, and more, offering a perfect opportunity if you’re purging a closet.
5. Boys and Girls Club of America
Their Mission: To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.
Because you’re working with children and building a relationship, the Boys and Girls Club has an application process and ask for minimum commitments. It’s a great organization, but be sure you can commit the time. You can also donate money to your local club.
6. More Love Letters & The Letter Project
Their Mission: To spread kindness and love via handwritten letters.
Want to volunteer your time without needing to book a babysitter? Write a letter yourself or host a letter-writing party. The mission behind these two organizations — More Love Letters and The Letter Project — is to send packages of handwritten letters to people who need a little love, kindness, encouragement, and, most importantly, to know people in the world care about them (all letter recipients are nominated by people they know). The Letter Project focuses on women and girls, while More Love Letters is broader.