During the holidays, many of us reflect on the things we are grateful for, and how we can use our resources, time or skills to help those who are less fortunate. Whether you’re looking for a way to celebrate Giving Tuesday on Nov. 29, or want to give back to your community more often, below are just a few of the ways you can make a difference.
4 ways to give back to your community during the holidays
According to Feeding America, nearly 2 million Ohio residents were food insecure in 2014, including more than 600,000 children. Each dollar donated to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank can provide four nutritious meals to someone struggling with hunger through over 800 different programs in six Northeast Ohio counties. Contact your regional food bank or local food pantry for information about making a donation or volunteering at a facility.
Many agencies generate funds for programming and operational expenses by selling donated clothing items in thrift shops at prices accessible to low-income community members. This method of donating is helpful in the long-run, but there are a variety of options for donors who wish to make a more direct contribution.
According to Cleveland’s Community West Foundation, socks are “the item that’s most requested by anyone living outside.” Donate money or new socks to the Foundation’s SocksPLUS program, or contact a local shelter to find out which types of donations are accepted.
Operation Warm provides new winter coats to 300,000 children across the country each year, and Coats for Kids collects new and gently used coats of all sizes at these locations in the Greater Cleveland area.
Career Gear and Dress for Success help impoverished men and women achieve economic independence by distributing gently used professional attire for job interviews and empowering them during their transitions into the workforce.
No organization would turn down a qualifying material donation, but in many cases monetary donations are much more helpful. These types of gifts give agencies more flexibility and the option to direct the funds to the programming areas where they are most needed. The donation process is also more convenient for donors, who can simply mail a check, submit a donation online or set up recurring gifts.
Before donating to a cause, do your research and familiarize yourself with the organization to ensure your dollars will reach those you are trying to help. Many nonprofits post financial statements and annual reports on their websites. These documents often disclose information about the percentage of funds directed to programming. Learn more about reliable charity evaluation systems and how to detect charity scams.
You don’t need money or material items to make a difference in your community. Many charities and nonprofits rely primarily on the work of volunteers to accomplish their missions.
Catchafire and Taproot+ allow community members to contribute at an organizational level through skill-based volunteering and pro bono work. Projects range from one-hour consulting calls to multi-month projects, and can involve marketing, web design, legal and financial expertise, and a variety of other professional skills.
How do you make a difference in your community? Tell us about your favorite charities and nonprofits in the comments!