Giving Back in the Holiday Season
It’s the season of giving!
It’s the season of giving! With the holidays around the corner, we know that many of us are focused on how we can give back to our communities and make a difference for those around us. At Food for the Hungry (FH), our mission is to see lives transformed as we grow closer to God and to each other through lives of service and generosity. FH’s goal is to see communities progress out of poverty, and as they do so, to see families begin caring for their neighbors in meaningful ways. We want this for the vulnerable families FH serves around the world and for our supporters here in the United States!
Here are four principles for giving back and loving your neighbor inspired by FH’s work in vulnerable communities. We hope they will inspire and help you serve your community this neighborhood season.
1. Start a Relationship
Do you feel stuck and you’re not sure what would make the biggest difference in your community? That can feel overwhelming, but it’s actually a good sign. Not knowing where to start is a signal that you have more to learn! How can you make an impact without knowing what the needs are?
To solve this problem, you can start by building relationships with people who understand what’s going on in your community. These people could include a church deacon, a public school principal, staff at local non-profits, or even contacts you have in local government.
Don’t be afraid to email or call and say “I want to help! What are the needs right now? What are the needs that are often overlooked?”
I like to start conversations by saying, “What are some gaps that you have a hard time filling?” This is a good way to know what you can do to make the biggest possible difference. Maybe an elementary school has dozens of volunteers who want to read to children, but nobody wants to file paperwork in the office. Maybe your local food bank receives thousands of cans of food, but struggles to fund a program to help young moms study for their GEDs. Ask about the gaps.
And build a relationship with someone in your community who can tell you the best ways to make an impact.
2. Identify Your Unique Gifts
What are the skills you have that you could use to serve others? Believe it or not, the skills you use in your day-to-day could be exactly what equips you to serve. Donating your time to serve can be a great way to fulfill a need in a unique way.
Maybe you work as a web developer or you have expertise in social media. Not everyone has those skills, and I bet there’s at least one organization near you that could use your skills to spruce up their website or improve their online giving.
Are you a stay-at-home mom with a fenced-in backyard? You might have your hands full as it is, but if you have time at home to watch an additional kid or two, the skill you offer might be free babysitting for a neighbor who needs to run errands or has a family emergency.
Do you know how to paint buildings, fix plumbing, or do yard work? Connect with community leaders who can put neighbors in contact with you for help at a discounted rate.
What if you’re a graphic designer? Churches and schools often need to advertise events or create beautiful graphics for email or social media. You might be able to create a few high-quality pieces for their upcoming projects!
It’s time to start thinking about the skills that are unique to YOU that equip you to serve your community.
3. Look for the Outsiders
My third step for how you can look to give back this holiday season is to look for the outsiders. What do I mean by that? I mean that you should keep an eye out for the people on the fringes.
Volunteering with FH is a great way to make new friends and help us serve donors and FH communities well!
During the holidays, this could be a college student whose family lives far away and they’re staying on campus for Thanksgiving break. Or perhaps you know someone in your church who recently went through a divorce and their kids are spending Christmas with the other parent. This could even be a neighbor you know who lives alone and might enjoy joining you to walk your dog around the neighborhood once a week.
The holidays can be an especially lonely time for people who don’t have a lot of people surrounding them. Even during the pandemic, there are ways to spend time together outside or six feet apart.
The key is to get creative in how you build your community!
4. Make a Plan
During the holidays, many of us focus on being grateful and looking for ways to love others. But what if this year, you created an action plan for giving back all year long? There is so much going on during the holidays — school projects wrapping up, travel, shopping for presents, doing family activities, cooking treats and big dinners. It can feel like a bad time to increase your giving budget or up your volunteer hours. And maybe it is! Rather than trying to donate more money or spend time giving back during November and December, what if you resolved to put a plan in place for being generous all year long?
Find an organization you want to support and make a commitment starting in January. Make space in your schedule so that volunteering doesn’t get crowded out. And add your donation to your budget so that you don’t forget to give. With a plan in place, you’ll be ready to start the new year with a heart geared toward giving!
My favorite way to plan my giving is to set up recurring donations. First, identify the organization you want to give to. Using their online portal, choose a dollar amount you want to give on a regular basis — monthly, bi-monthly, annually, or whatever works best for you. This way, even when life gets busy, you know you will continue to support the organization that matters to you. I have recurring donations set up for several organizations and am always encouraged to receive the monthly receipts, reminding me that I provide ongoing support for very important work.
And that’s it!
Four steps to giving back in a meaningful way this holiday season — and all year long! Let us know if you try any of these by sharing your story on Facebook or Instagram and tagging Food for the Hungry (FH).
Learn More About Food for the Hungry
We would love for FH to be part of your giving this year! To learn more about how we walk alongside the most vulnerable to end all forms of extreme poverty, visit our About Us page today!
Raising Kids Who Care: Fun Activity for Kids
Three Creative Ways to Change the World in 24 Hours
Giving Rhythms and the Spirit of Generosity