The following article is a guest post. The benefits of giving back to your community are obvious: You make a noticeable positive impact on the lives of struggling people and animals around you. Giving back also has direct benefits to you in the form of reduced stress, improved relationships, and conserved resources. However, Americans today are busier than they ever have been, which means many people feel they don’t have the time or energy to give back in a meaningful way. Before you dismiss charitable activities entirely, consider these easy and scalable methods of giving back to your community. You’ll be glad you did.
The absolute easiest way to help your community is to donate your money or goods instead of your time. It takes seconds to donate money on a charity’s website, or minutes to drop off your unwanted stuff at a donation center, so you should be able to squeeze some giving back into any hectic schedule.
Donating may sound like a cop-out, but there are several ways that donating helps charities — and you — more than volunteering. Sometimes charities can be overwhelmed with volunteer applications; for example, soup kitchens are inundated with helpful do-gooders every Thanksgiving, and all those extra volunteers actually slow down the process instead of helping it. At times like these, kitchens would prefer individuals’ donated food items over their physical presence.
Additionally, donating helps you de-clutter your life of unnecessary junk; you can give back to the community by donating your unused boat and clear out your driveway, or donate your old appliances and treat yourself to some newer and more energy-efficient ones. There are as many ways to donate as to volunteer, and donating fits handily into a busy life.
Schedule Volunteering in Advance
Even if you have your schedule filled up for the next few months, somewhere in your calendar you have an empty three hours you can fill with community-oriented activities. Many community events are scheduled weeks if not months ahead of time, which means you have the opportunity to look pretty far in the future and get an idea of what volunteer opportunities will be available. Planning a volunteer event well in advance allows you to schedule other activities around the period you’ll be giving back to your community, so you’ll have time for everything.
Incorporate Charitable Activities Into Your Regular Life
For many people, work isn’t the major calendar hog; instead, it’s the myriad social engagements required by their kids or clubs that gobble the space in their schedules. Many people are reluctant to cancel a monthly mah-jong game with the friends they rarely see, for example. Instead of cancelling one or the other, volunteering and social activities can easily be merged in various fun and functional events. You can host a luncheon or a gala and encourage your friends to donate their money to your worthy cause, or you can ask your mah-jong group to meet up at a volunteer event one day instead of your regular brunch place — your social needs are met, and you’re able to give back to the community to boot.
Alternatively, for those whose jobs really are the time-suck, free time becomes exceedingly precious, so using up a couple to volunteer means no time at the gym that week. There are plenty of activities that combine hobbies and charitable fundraising. If you’re a runner, you can consider signing up for a marathon and asking friends and family to sponsor your efforts and contribute to the hosting charity. If you’re a knitter, you can make blankets, clothes, and toys and give them to the needy, like children confined to the hospital or elderly left alone in care homes. There are as many opportunities to be charitable as there are hobbies, so see if your favorite activity can translate into community benefit.
Encourage Your Work to Be Charitable
If you can’t give back to your community directly, try to do it indirectly by creating incentives for your employees and coworkers to volunteer and donate. There are plenty of programs across the country that work alongside workplaces to make communities better places to live. If you are a higher-level manager or director at your company, make a difference in your community by encouraging the rest of your business to give back. While you’re toiling away, trying to complete everything in your jam-packed schedule, you can be sure you’re helping the community through the many hands of your dedicated workers.