By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting
The holiday season is upon us and as you already know, there are numerous opportunities to give. With a long list of friends and family for whom you must buy gifts and a range of worthwhile causes to which to donate, the list of financial obligations during the holidays can quickly grow. Despite limited financial resources, many young professionals still love to give back. For these reasons, I am focusing this week on meaningful and festive ways to give to your community without breaking the bank and, in some cases, without spending anything at all.
Raid your cabinets for nonperishable items
I will admit it: This year, I turned into a holiday hoarder. After consistently experiencing canned pumpkin shortages during the holidays last year, I stockpiled early this year. Despite an excessive amount of time spent on Pinterest looking for pumpkin recipes, I have yet to make a single thing with pumpkin thus far this season. Each time I open the kitchen cabinets, cans upon cans of pumpkin stare me down. If you had a similar experience overloading on a nonperishable item that was on sale, consider contributing some of those already-paid-for goods to a local food shelter. Organizations like Attention Homes serve Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and thrive because of the generosity of donors who donate and prepare things like macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes (which are inexpensive and likely already around the house).
Donate and/or wrap presents
As a Regis alum, I am fortunate to be part of a community that believes whole-heartedly in engaging the entire surrounding community in giving back. Each year, Regis plays an active role in supporting the Father Woody Christmas Party by collecting, wrapping and distributing presents for those in need and assisting the day of the annual Christmas party. Whether or not you celebrate the Christmas holiday, this is a really fun and heartfelt way to show those in need that they are valued members of a community and lend a helping hand. Plus, if you need an extra incentive beyond the incredible sense of joy you are giving, there is a gift-wrapping PARTY with lots of other students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members (HINT: a great networking opportunity that could lead to more life-changing volunteer opportunities). Reach out to your alumni networks and find similar holiday parties that give back, or contribute to whichever cause is calling you. I found a very moving article about a new food pantry started by NC State University students and staff that is accepting community donations and encouraging student volunteers. Locally, organizations such as Food Bank of the Rockies, (which also lets donors set up their own virtual food drive online always need volunteers, especially at the holidays, and provide a great opportunity to get a group of school friends or alumni together to volunteer as a group.
Volunteer to spread holiday cheer
Some of my fondest memories have taken place at Marycrest Assisted Living Center through various school outings from middle school through college. I promise you that a day at Marycrest helping with one of their holiday parties or decorating activities will make your day. I have some of the funniest and sweetest stories from volunteering at Marycrest (one of the best memories is from the time I got to assist Santa as he took pictures with residents and visited with them) and would personally recommend looking into their volunteer opportunities. However, for those of you who live outside the north Denver area, there are plenty of opportunities to share some holiday cheer at an assisted care facility or similar organization near you. Contact their volunteer coordinator and ask if you (or, even better, you and a group of friends/family members/coworkers) can help bring the holiday spirit to that organization.
Find an organization that will match your donation
If you wish to give financially and want to double your cash, find an opportunity to get your donation matched. Some employers match workplace-giving contributions, so be sure to ask your supervisor if this is an option where you work. LivingSocial is currently matching $5 donations to Toys for Tots and offering $60 worth of care package items to U.S. troops for a mere $25 donation.
Whether you are donating items, money or time, I can tell you from my own experience that your holiday efforts will not go unnoticed. Be creative about your capacity to give and don’t be discouraged by a tight holiday budget. Get others involved in any of the activities mentioned above and you can make your gift go even further. HINT (yes, another one): Use this as a leadership opportunity to get alumni groups/young professional networks/boards/coworkers involved in year-end philanthropy and do a little networking at the same time—a win-win for all!
How do you plan to give back this holiday season? Share your ideas below.