by Kate Vandeveld

The holiday season is here! And with it comes an opportunity to reflect on the things that we’re most grateful for, and the ways we can make a difference in the lives of others.

According to Network for Good, more than 30% of charitable giving happens in December, with average gifts rising to $142 versus $91 during the rest of the year. While donations are extremely important, there are many other ways to give back. Here are a few to start, but we would love to hear your ideas as well! 

SmallBizSat

Support Local Businesses

For many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday shopping adventure, kicking off on the infamous Black Friday. Last year, consumers spent $12.3 billion at brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday – largely at large corporations like Walmart and Best Buy.  This year, some stores are even opening on Thanksgiving Day to further increase their profits, even at the expense of employees’ family time. Instead of standing in long lines and fighting your way through the Black Friday crowds, we have an alternate option for you: Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday encourages consumers to forego making purchases from large corporations on Black Friday in favor of supporting small local businesses the following day. Small businesses have created 63 percent of new jobs over the past decade and employ half the nation’s workforce. Spending $100 at a local business means that roughly $68 stays in your local economy, versus the $43 that will stay in your local economy if you spend the same at a large business. Started by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday helps local businesses bolster business by spreading the word about their own discounts and sales, and provides consumers with an opportunity to make better holiday purchasing decisions.

You can find participating small businesses here, or promote your own business’s participation here.

GivingTuesday

Give Back

Have your own idea for giving back and want to spread the word? Enter #GivingTuesday.  With three days around Thanksgiving dedicated to deals and purchases, the #GivingTuesday team decided it was time for a day dedicated to giving. #GivingTuesday is a movement that encourages individuals, organizations, and companies all over the world to develop their own initiatives centered around giving back, to be launched on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving.

Last year, thousands of companies all over the world joined the #GivingTuesday movement. For example, Microsoft YouthSpark launched an initiative to raise $500K for their Give for Youth campaign that creates education, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people. On #GivingTuesday, they matched 100% of donations dollar for dollar up to $250,000. eBay Deals also teamed up with eBay Giving Works for one week to donate 10 percent of sales to benefit a variety of non-profits.

Find out who is participating in #GivingTuesday this year and how you can get involved here, and follow the movement on Twitter to stay in the loop.

volunteer

Commit to Volunteering Throughout the Year

For many who want to give back during the holiday season, the first thing that comes to mind is volunteering at their local soup kitchen on Thanksgiving Day. While this is a wonderful idea, soup kitchens and shelters are often totally overwhelmed by volunteers on Thanksgiving, only to struggle to find resources and volunteers during the rest of the year.

Rather than volunteering your time on one or two major holidays, think about making a commitment to volunteer regularly throughout the year. Sites like Volunteer Match and Idealist can help you find volunteer work that works well for your interests and location. 

Gifts

Purchase Sustainable Paper Goods

A lot of paper is wasted during the holiday season - from cards to wrapping paper, we use a lot of it without thinking about environmental impact. Half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap and decorate consumer products, and from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, household waste increases by more than 25%.

But there are ways to be more eco-friendly during the holiday season without giving up cards and wrapped presents. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials -- newspaper, magazine, or old maps, for example -- it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Or if you want to stick to traditional wrapping paper, try out these sustainable options. And when it comes to holiday cards, you can choose to go digital, or check out these eco-friendly cards made from 100% recycled paper.


As you prepare for the holiday season, take some time to think about the best way for you to make an impact. Whether it’s volunteering your time or simply making smarter and more sustainable consumer choices, now is the perfect time for you to make a difference.

What’s your favorite way to make an impact during the holiday season? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook and Twitter. And be sure to follow us Instagram, too!


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