18 Ways to Give Back During the Holidays

Spend the holiday season giving back to your community.

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Diverse human hands showing unity

Photo by: Mango Stock | Graphic By: Erica Reitman

Mango Stock | Graphic By: Erica Reitman

The arrival of the holiday season often means spending time with family, exchanging gifts and enjoying delicious meals with loved ones. But it’s also the perfect time to focus on gratitude and giving. Choosing to focus on doing good during this hectic time of year is a wonderful tradition to start for yourself or your family.

Whether you’d like to volunteer, perform random acts of kindness or make a donation, we have 18 ideas for great ways you can do some good this holiday season.

1: Drive-Thru Surprise

This is one of the easiest ways to do something kind for a complete stranger. The next time you go through the drive-thru to get your morning cup of coffee or lunch, pay for the person behind you. That’s it! You’ll drive away before they’ll know what you did so they won’t get a chance to thank you, but you’ll know that you totally made a stranger’s day.

2: Up Your Tips

Another easy way to do good over the holiday season is to randomly increase your tips to 50 or 100 percent when you go out to eat. Write a simple "Our family wishes you and yours a very happy holiday!" on your bill, and leave your server a nice tip.

3: Recurring Monthly Donations

As you plan your gift list for the holidays, consider donations instead of actual presents. For a special gift for someone (or for yourself) set up a recurring monthly donation for the organizations you most want to support. Even a recurring $5 donation can make a difference.

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Cute Hispanic girl is holding a cardboard sign with 'Thank You!' witten on the board. She and her family are in a soup kitchen or food bank. She is smiling at the camera. Her brown hair is in a braid. Volunteers ar serving her family in the background. Focus is on the girl and the sign.

Photo by: Getty Images

Getty Images

4: Help Your Local Animal Shelter

If you’re an animal lover (or your kids are), it would be a lovely gesture to volunteer at your local shelter as a family. Often the dogs need to be walked and socialized, which is a great activity for the family. Ask the shelter what’s on their wish list and stop at a pet store before you volunteer, so you can bring collars, dog beds or anything else they might need.

5: Bring Cookies to a Nursing Home

Senior citizens in nursing homes aren’t always lucky enough to have friends and family to visit them during the holidays. This can feel especially isolating at this time of year. Call your local nursing home to see if they would be open to you dropping off cookies or baked goods to their residents. You can walk around, deliver sweet treats and get to know the residents.

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Granddaughter embracing her happy grandmother at home

Photo by: Eva-Katalin, Getty Images

Eva-Katalin, Getty Images

6: Teach Your Kids the Importance of Giving

It’s wonderful to teach your kids the importance of giving, even at a young age. For one of their holiday gifts, give them a pre-determined amount of money. Then help them to choose a charity or organization (or several!) that they would like to support, and let them decide which they would like to donate their money to.

7: Use Amazon Smile

After signing up with Amazon Smile and choosing any charity of your choice, a portion of everything you buy on Amazon will be donated to your charity every single time you shop. You just need to make sure that you always use the smile.amazon.com URL instead of amazon.com. It’s one of the easiest ways to give and do some good.

8: Stock Up on Gift Cards

Stock up on $5 or $10 gift cards (Amazon, American Express or Target, for example), and hand them out to people that you interact with often: a bank teller; a cashier at the supermarket you frequent; your favorite barista. Passing along a gift card with a simple "Happy Holidays!" wish will almost always bring a smile to someone's face.

9: Write Letters to Deployed Military Members

The holidays are an especially hard time for these heroes to be away from their family, so a personalized letter really can lift their spirits. Have the kids decorate their letters with stickers or special drawings for an extra-special touch.

Get Involved: Operation Gratitude

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small child writes the letter to Santa

Photo by: Choreograph, Getty Images

Choreograph, Getty Images

10: Thank Your Local Firefighters

Call the non-emergency number of your local fire department to find out how many firefighters they typically have there at any given time. Then, put together a delicious breakfast of baked goods you can drop off to thank these brave men and women for their service.

More Ways to Do Good + Make a Difference:

Loan your money to third-world entrepreneurs through a website like Kiva. Ninety-nine percent of these loans are paid back, and you can truly change the lives of the families who receive the loans.

Discover where to donate everything in your home, from books and electronics to clothes and sporting equipment.

This website helps you target opportunities for kids and families to do good together.

The Joy of Sox is a wonderful organization that provides new pairs of socks to homeless people. New socks are apparently the number one item needed, and people rarely donate them.

Stand Up 2 Cancer is an amazing initiative developed to help accelerate innovative cancer research and work toward finding cures.

If you and your family love to take on art and DIY projects, consider creating handmade cards for sick kids in hospitals all across America.

Know you want to do some good, but don’t have any clue where to start? Volunteer Match can help you find opportunities in your area that will work with your schedule and passion.

Another wonderful family activity over the holiday would be to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. They are building homes all across the country with the hope that everyone has a decent place to live. They also accommodate group volunteering, so you could really get your whole extended family involved.

21 Gifts That Give Back

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