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Think Beyond the Soup Kitchen this Thanksgiving 

Thanksgiving day is one of the busiest volunteer events of the year for hunger-prevention charities. In fact, many coordinators are forced to turn away well-intentioned helpers due to high volunteer turnout, which can be disheartening for those eager to give. This year, help make everyone’s holiday brighter with some alternative ways to help those in need.

Crowdfund a holiday check. 
(Volunteer commitment: 3 hours/week)

Crowdfunding is a great tool for good doers to make a difference. And it’s one of the most effective and convenient ways of collecting donations for your favorite charities and causes, especially for those who are physically unable to volunteer.

Relatively new, crowdfunding is the practice of financing a project by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people via the Internet. And there are plenty of online platforms that make it easy for anyone to do it. A few, such as Rally, are designed specifically to help non-profits raise money for causes. Other well-known platforms, such as Kickstarter, have also been used by charities to leverage donation goals. You can use one of these platforms to raise funds for holiday presents, clothes, meals or supplies for donation.

Before creating your crowdfunding page, keep in mind that success requires marketing and monitoring. These platforms often excite people into thinking that their cause will draw large sums of donations. However, good intentions don’t guarantee results. Make sure to set realistic goals, encourage friends to share, and think creatively how you can recruit more people to your cause.

Feed a family in need. 
(Volunteer commitment: 2-4 hours)

For many American households, the mere thought of a Thanksgiving dinner can trigger financial anxiety and stress. According to a recent report on food insecurity from the United States Department of Agriculture, 49 million people were living in food-insecure households at some point in 2014. You can help these families by donating meals through a local church or community outreach organization. Follow our DIY guide for helping to feed a hungry family in need, organize a food drive or visit for other ways to donate food.

Visit a nursing home. 
(Volunteer commitment: 2+ hours)

Some nursing home residents depart for the holidays, or host visits from family and friends. But for those who have no family, or nowhere to go, you can lift their holiday spirits and brighten their day. Contact a local home and ask about visiting times. Then plan activities for your visit. Listening to music, holiday decorating, watching a movie or sharing a holiday dish are all great ways of keeping residents company. Just make sure to confirm which activities and meals are permitted. For more ideas on how to volunteer your time with seniors click here.

Give blood or help donors. 
(Volunteer commitment: 1 - 2 hours)

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone requires blood. You could give a patient the chance to spend another holiday with loved ones by donating blood this Thanksgiving. If you’re unable to give, you can volunteer to become a Donor Ambassador for the American Red Cross. Ambassadors are the smiling faces that greet community members and offer them post-donation snacks as they relax. Learn more about volunteer opportunities in your area and start your application here.

Ask what’s needed.

Hunger-prevention charities such as soup kitchens and shelters do extraordinary work all-year-round. They often need extra help, but Thanksgiving is not necessarily one of those days. As a volunteer, the best thing you can do ahead of any holiday giving is to listen to the needs of the organization for which you’ll be working. Sometimes, charities prefer supplies and cash donations over time and labor, and your skills can help facilitate that as well.

Check out more volunteer opportunities with keyword “Thanksgiving.”

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