The holidays are the season for giving. It’s when many people open their hearts—and wallets—to support charitable organizations. If you’re budget conscious this season, don’t worry. There are many ways to give back in addition to donating money. You can give the gift of service by volunteering your time and talents for a cause you’re passionate about. Don’t have extra time on your hands? There are several small ways you can make someone’s day by paying it forward this season.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 62 million Americans—a little over 1 in 5—volunteered in 2015. Volunteers perform a nearly endless variety of tasks, from serving food to answering phones, building houses to uprooting invasive plants, welcoming visitors to counseling those in crisis. No matter your age or ability, you can find volunteer opportunities to suit you.
Better to Give Than to Receive
Volunteers often say they get more than they give from their volunteer position. As a volunteer, you may:
- enjoy a feeling of having accomplished something worthwhile. It may improve your self-esteem.
- learn skills and make connections that can help advance your career
- try out different jobs or fields before committing to a path for your education or career
- expand your social network
- learn to master new challenges
- gain satisfaction in seeing the results of the work
- get to know your community
4 Steps for a Successful Volunteer Experience
- Identify your interests. Decide what you’d like to accomplish. Consider what you feel passionate about: caring for animals, housing the homeless, protecting the environment, helping veterans, etc.
- Find a charity whose mission matches your interests. You can search for a nonprofit that cares about the same thing you do at Charity Navigator or VolunteerMatch.
- Decide what you can offer. Assess how much time you want to commit, what special skills you have to offer, and what you’re willing or not willing to do.
- Make a commitment. Once you’ve found the right charity and been offered a volunteer position, commit to being there for that organization. The success of their mission depends on you!
Small Ways to Spread Joy
Giving back doesn’t need to be a huge commitment. A simple gesture can be heartwarming and may help make the world a kinder place. People who have had something nice done for them may be more likely to do something nice for someone else, creating a ripple effect. Consider these ideas:
- Leave a stack of quarters at the laundromat.
- Smile and say hello to neighbors or coworkers you may not know.
- Tell on someone—in a good way! When someone provides you with good service, tell their manager about it. Had a good dining experience? Write a positive review online.
- Write a note or send an email to a friend, family member or co-worker saying what you admire about them.
- Offer to baby-sit—free—for parents who could use a night out.
- Pay for coffee for someone behind you in line at the coffee shop.
- Send a thank-you card to officers at your local police or fire station.
- Surprise a neighbor by helping with yard chores or delivering a treat.
There are many ways to give back during the holiday season and throughout the year. From volunteering time to performing random acts of kindness, there are things we can all do to make the season a little brighter.
Ready to get started? Navy Federal Credit Union helps you learn more about Volunteer Opportunities. Don’t have time to volunteer but still want to help out? Learn about ways you can make the most of your charitable giving.