7 Impactful Ways to Give Back to Your Community
Resources and ideas that don’t involve donating money.
Written by Lulu Li, Potencia Marketing Coordinator
The Importance of Giving Back
“You may not have saved a lot of money in your life, but if you have saved a lot of heartaches for other folks, you are a pretty rich man.” -Seth Parker
Communities are built by people like you and me who take the time to contribute towards local causes. Notice I said time, not money. Financial contributions are a fantastic way to give back to the community, but it’s not always feasible.
But in our lives, giving time can be hard. There’s nothing wrong with that. Life happens.
The important thing to remember is that giving back is just as beneficial to yourself as it is to your community.
Uniting people and bridging gaps. If every neighborhood had even a small group of people come together every weekend, the number of individuals you interact with will increase exponentially.
What does this mean for you? This means that you will gain a broadened perspective of the world. You will grow as an empathetic and effective member of your community by better understanding the circumstances of your neighbors. Working with diverse teams will help you build your communication and leadership abilities.
Build new friendships while also strengthening your existing relationships.
Altruism also has health benefits. The Longitudinal Study of Aging found that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not, even when controlled for physical health.
The Mayo Clinic highlights reduced stress levels due to volunteering. This is because your social circles are enhanced while furthering your senses of meaning and appreciation. Reducing your stress levels in turn reduces your risk of disease. The Corporation for National and Community Service found that states with high volunteer rates also have lower mortality rates and lesser instances of heart disease.
Source: Corporation for National and Community Service
Grab a few friends and convince them to join you on these volunteering ideas we offer you. Remind them that:
Giving money is not the only way to give back
You can gain valuable personal and career skills through volunteering
By strengthening your community, you are strengthening your own network
Volunteering is associated with decreased stress and increased health
There are many ways to give back without money. Step out of your comfort zone with these ideas and resources that you may not have considered so far.
Idea 1: Dedicate Time Towards a Build
“Without labor, nothing prospers.” -Sophocles
Bring together friends, family, your campus chapter, or even your company team. Heck, go solo! Contribute towards building a home for Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit that provides effective, affordable housing. Their solution helps families achieve the strength, stability, and independence needed to begin a new chapter as a homeowner.
You and your team will either be building a home or aiding in renovations. All you need is a water bottle and a great attitude. Though this may seem daunting at first, there is no experience necessary. All work is under the guidance of a construction professional.
Habitat for Humanity does more than just provide homes to those in need. They also offer employment opportunities for veterans, provide volunteer experiences, empower women-led organizations, and offer financial education and financial literacy programs.
Find your local build sites here.
Idea 2: Help Immigrants and Refugees Learn English
“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” -Mark Van Doren
About one in ten workers in the US are considered limited in English skills. Many English learners find that their schedules and learning-styles makes enrolling in an appropriate class difficult. If there is a free class, there’s usually a waiting period for enrollment that averages at 15 months. That’s enough time to complete an entire minor study in college or to jumpstart a new career.
Potencia is a non-profit organization under the Refugee Immigration Ministry that offers accessible, affordable, and effective English classes for immigrants and refugees. They pair college students with English learners to complete an established English curriculum personalized to the learner’s goals.
These classes are small, usually one-on-one or two-on-one, to maximize the learner’s confidence and success. Tutors gain firsthand experience in teaching and community engagement. As a tutor, there are both in-person and remote opportunities for you.
Join Potencia as an English tutor to help empower members of your community.
If you are not a college student, consider English At Large as a volunteer tutor!
Idea 3: Giving Blood
“If you’re a blood donor, you’re a hero to someone, somewhere, who received your gracious gift of life.” -Anonymous
If you’re willing and able, the Red Cross is in need of blood donations. The Times reported that due to the COVID-19 crisis:
1,500 blood drives across the country were cancelled
46,000 donations were lost
Blood drives have significantly decreased turnout
And this was just for the month of March.
Source: Red Cross of America
You can learn more about the donation process here and how they are making it safe in the time of COVID-19.
Find a blood drive near you.
Idea 4: Contribute Towards a Political Campaign
“You can study government and politics in school, but the best way to really understand the process is to volunteer your time.” -Rob McKenna
This 2020 Election year is a special one. What will it impact?
All 435 Congressional Districts in the House of Representatives Elections
35 out of the 100 Senate Seats
11 Gubernatorial Elections to determine State Governors
Office of the President of the United States
If you are unable to vote this year, you can still do your part in changing the political landscape. Consider volunteering for a political campaign of a candidate that you support.
When educating yourself on their platforms, you can either engage with local politicians or ones across the country. If you’re especially passionate, some candidates accept remote volunteers.
Running an election campaign is an extremely long and difficult process for any candidate. Their offices need volunteers to perform a variety of roles:
Social Media Outreach
Try reaching out to your local candidate’s office to see if they have any volunteering opportunities that align with your interests and ideals. You can even volunteer on Election Day as a Poll Worker.
Idea 5: Volunteer at the Food Bank
“Food is national security. Food is economy. It is employment, energy, history. Food is everything”. -José Andrés
The Food Bank is always a great place to give back to your community. This is especially true now.
During COVID-19, food banks have been hit hard. There is a severe shortage in supply. NBC News reported that supermarkets and farms are the biggest contributors to food banks. As supermarkets are struggling to supply their own customers, they are unable to donate to food banks.
Feeding America, a non-profit organization dedicated towards America’s hungry, encountered the following problems in March:
92% of their food banks had an increased demand from the community
64% of their food banks had a decrease in donations
Senior citizens, the largest volunteer base, no longer felt comfortable volunteering
Volunteers decreased while demand increased
How can you help? You can pledge to volunteer. Remote opportunities include spreading awareness and fundraising. If you want to contribute in-person, food banks need volunteers to sort, pack, distribute, and deliver food.
Take action here.
Idea 6: Skill-Based Volunteering for Young Professionals
“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” -Scott Belsky
If your profession involves business skills, consider organizations such as BUILD.
BUILD is a national organization with chapters in major metropolitan areas. Their goal is to help high-school entrepreneurs launch their businesses. They teach skills to enable success in high school, college, and beyond.
Primarily, BUILD partners business professionals with high schoolers. This manifests in two different ways:
Mentoring a high-schooler with their career skills and business ideas
Using your existing skills to help with specific roles (marketing, graphic design, public speaking, finance, etc.)
Mentorship is a great way to give back to the community, especially to empower the next generation of business and community leaders.
Find your local BUILD chapter here.
Idea 7: Donating Personal Items
“One good thing about donation, once you do it, you get addicted to it because it brings great joy and happiness to you.” -Debasish Mridha
In Boston, the lease cycle is coming to an end. This means that many young adults are going to be going through their things, packing, and moving to their next home.
Marie Kondo your apartment and set aside some clothes, furniture, or supplies that would benefit your local community.
There are many local donation centers. Before donating to a charity, make sure that it is registered with the IRS as a 501c(3) tax-exempt organization if you would like your donations to be tax deductible. You can find the status of your local charity here.
Here are some national organizations as possible resources:
Habitat for Humanity ReStore: For furniture, appliances, and building materials. They will also pick-up your items if needed.
Salvation Army: For any and all clothing donations, pick-up is available.
Soles4Souls: For new and gently-worn shoes.
Vietnam Veterans of America: For anything from clothing, household items, to cars. They also engage in doorstep pick-up.
Volunteering in Times of Crisis
“Help one another. There’s no time like the present, and no present like the time.” -James Durst
There may be a humanitarian crisis, a global pandemic, or a natural disaster. Sometimes, like now, there may be all three of those things.
As volunteers, we need to respond during these times and lend a hand to those who need it.
Our lives have been turned inside out, upside down, and counter-clockwise with the world shutting down. As a result, many communities are suffering and need our help.
Join one of the community engagement opportunities listed above. If none of those interest you, take the initiative to engage with a cause that resonates with you. Hopefully we’ve given you some great ideas!
As the United Nations appropriately says, “When crisis strikes, volunteers are there first.”