Giving back to your community is a wonderful and rewarding experience. It can also be fun and help form and strengthen friendships. One great thing about it is that there are so many different ways you can contribute—there’s something out there for everyone! If you want to help out, but you’re not sure how, we’ve compiled a list of ideas to help you get started. Many, if not all, of these can be done in most cities across the nation.
Also, be sure to check out our other blog post, “10 Ways to Use Technology to Give Back,” for some more inspiration!
We understand you may be busy. When you don’t have a lot of spare time to volunteer, donate your resources when possible. One benefit of donating is that you don’t necessarily have to spend extra money; you might already own some items that could be given away. Here are some types of items that you could donate:
Food - For example, you could donate to your local food bank, homeless shelters, and school food drives. However, make sure your items are easy to open and do not require cooking; it’s hard to predict which tools and appliances will be accessible.
Clothing - Think about how many clothes you actually wear compared to how many you own. You might have a decent amount of clothes that either don’t fit or no longer match your style. These clothes could go to good use when you donate them to organizations such as the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Dress for Success.
Books - Many places like thrift stores and local libraries will accept used books, but you can also donate to organizations with particular goals, like Books for Soldiers or Books Through Bars.
Arts and crafts supplies - You may have accumulated a lot of unused supplies over the years from projects and one-time events. Children's’ hospitals, local schools, churches, women’s shelters, homeless shelters, etc., are all good examples of places where these art supplies would be appreciated.
Toiletries - These are essential for personal hygiene and health on a regular basis. Small, simple items like toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, and pads/tampons would be appreciated at many organizations.
Blood - One pint of donated blood can save up to three lives. If you’re anxious about needles, many blood drives are in need of volunteers to help take donors’ information, provide food for after their donation, etc.
Organs and tissue - This only requires filling out a form. Register here to become an organ donor so that you can continue giving back after you’ve passed.
There are plethora of ways you could volunteer. Many options involve simple tasks and they can also be a lot of fun! However, you might be more invested if it’s for a cause you‘re passionate about; in that case, websites like Volunteer Match can help you find volunteer opportunities around your area that align with your personal interests—whether that’s working with children, caring for animals, or fighting for women’s rights.
Below are some places where volunteers are often needed. When you search for these locations in your area, you’ll often find a “volunteer” page on their website with a description of the responsibilities and perhaps an online application. If not, try contacting the organization.
Museums - Museums often host events, like school/group visits, art classes, and film showings that may require volunteers to help oversee the event, collect tickets, clean up, etc.
Hospitals - In a hospital, you may assist with a variety of tasks, such as helping out at the information desk, responding to nursing requests, and playing games with children.
Local libraries - Libraries often host events that need volunteers. They also regularly need help with sorting books and stocking shelves.
Research labs - Researchers need volunteers to participate in their studies regarding mental and physical health. You can use a website like Research Match to find a study you’re eligible for.
Animal shelters - Are you an animal lover? This might be the perfect place to volunteer. You’ll get to spend time with animals and help take care of them.
Schools - If you have a child in school, talk to your child or contact the school to seek volunteer opportunities. They might need field trip chaperones, library assistants, playground monitors, sports coaches, fundraiser committee members, etc.
Senior centers - Here, you could build companionship with the elderly while aiding with daily tasks, assisting in the kitchen, helping out with projects and programs, and more. You could also get to play games and have fun with the seniors!
Churches - Your local church might be having fundraisers, holiday events, community service events, and youth programs. Pay attention to any announcements and attend these events if you can.
Support local businesses
Volunteering and donating are not the only ways you can give back. You might be doing it without even thinking about it when you shop at local stores and eat at local restaurants. After all, they’re run by citizens in your area! When you visit local places, you’re helping individuals in your community grow their business and support for their families. You also help preserve the unique character of your town by making sure these places stay in business. These small businesses are part of what distinguishes your community from every other community. Large chains may be convenient, but try to check out local places mores often. They often provide unique and memorable experiences. You can use tools like Yelp or spend a day exploring your town by foot or bike to discover new places!