Done with dieting? Dreading the gym? This year, forget those daunting New Year’s resolutions you won’t want to keep come March. Make a resolution you won’t regret: giving back. Volunteering can be as big or small a commitment as time allows, but it’s always time worth spending. Not only are you lending a hand to those in need, you’re guaranteed to feel good about it, too.
This year, Create the Good has made giving back resolutions more achievable—and inspirational—by dividing the year into 12 monthly “giving” themes. Turn to these fun, practical ideas each month for guidance.
Give the gift of kindness all year long:
January— Are you tightening your belt after all the holiday spending? This month, focus on finances. This could mean teaching a child the basics of financial literacy, giving an elderly friend a hand with online bill payments, or helping ensure that a neighbor gets the benefits to which they’re entitled. If you have more time to give, volunteer to be a trained budget coach and help others improve their financial landscape.
February—This is the month that celebrates love. So focus on those you know and love by showing them just how much you care—with a phone call to a long-lost friend, a visit to a neighbor susceptible to isolation, a letter to a distant relative. Another easy way to show love and friendship: While you’re cooking dinner for your sweetheart, make extra portions for a single or elderly neighbor.
March—Spring cleaning time! Sift through your closets for clothing and household items you no longer use, and donate them to a local charity. Don’t forget about books and magazines: waiting rooms, recreation centers, retirement centers, and even schools can use these.
April—Warmer weather is on the horizon and Earth Day makes a perfect occasion to celebrate nature. Help a neighbor with a garden or start potted plants to give away. See if a nearby retirement center or nursing home needs a hand beautifying the grounds for spring. Or get your whole neighborhood involved by starting a community garden. You’ll see the fruit and veggie rewards all season long—and it’s a great way to get out and meet others.
May—During Military Appreciation Month, there are so many ways to say thanks to both active and retired military and their families. Write a thank you note to a soldier. Send paperback books to military stationed overseas. Donate your old cell phones to troops. If you know of a family with a parent or spouse deployed, offer to help out by caring for a pet or doing yard work.
June—School’s out. For some, this means graduation into what’s becoming an increasingly tough job search environment. Put your knowledge to work to help a grad perfect a resume or cover letter, search jobs online, or start an entrepreneurial venture. Volunteering for SCORE, which helps small businesses get off the ground, can be a good starting point. And June means younger students are out and about, too: a summer day camp program might need your energy and creative ideas.
July—When most people are taking a summer vacation, remember the caretakers. If you know someone who cares for a parent or loved one, chances are they could use a hand. Use our guide for ways to help, from offering to run an errand to helping with a special project. Or sub in for a few hours, so the caregiver can take a break to focus on him or herself. You might also consider visiting a local nursing home to lend a hand, a listening ear or just a smile. Looking for ideas to make the most of your visit? Read our friendly visitor guide.
August—It’s the dog days. Why not focus on animals and pets? Volunteering can be as simple as providing pet care for someone on vacation. Local shelters always need your old linens and towels to give rescued animals a soft place to rest. Don’t forget how important education campaigns can be—if you have a flair for speaking or writing, you can help with adoption days or spread the word about the dangers of hot cars. Or take a walk on the wild side and visit an animal sanctuary or rehabilitation farm that needs help. You may even find yourself making friends with horses or helping injured wild birds.
September—As children head back to school, make sure every youngster is well equipped to learn. Depending on where you live, you can help students with their reading skills through programs like Experience Corps. You can also help ensure that students in your community have the tools they need to learn. Drop off supplies at a local school, participate in a school supply drive, or throw a supply drive of your own. Another option: a used book sale, where both the proceeds and books go to school libraries.
October—Add some creativity to your giving-back ritual: Try crafting for a good cause. Make a seasonal door wreath for an elderly friend, or paint a terracotta pot (complete with soil and seeds) to introduce yourself to a neighbor. Or create a table centerpiece for a nursing home or nearby family to brighten their dining room for the upcoming holidays. But you needn’t be Martha Stewart to make something others can use. You could simply assemble items into useful kits, such as an Emergency Supply kit for friends or a care package to a homeless shelter. Our Crafting for Good guide offers a plethora of ideas for all skill levels.
November—A winter nip is in the air again. With nearly 9 million adults today facing the risk of cold and hunger, there are plenty of ways to help. Call your local homeless shelter and ask them what they need. Hygiene kits filled with the basic necessities are often welcomed. Or give a few hours to serve a meal at a soup kitchen. Around the Thanksgiving holidays, it can be especially difficult for volunteer organizations to coordinate needs, donations and volunteers. Ask what’s needed and what’s already being done—if you’re an organizational pro, a good leader, or have special skills, you could be in demand.
December—Congratulations! You made it through your 12 months of giving back. Celebrate a year well done by throwing a party—for good. From wrapping parties to bake sales, Create the Good offers up some ideas to get you started. Gather your friends and do good together.