50 Ways to Give Back For the Holidays

Giving back is a huge part of who I am and I believe that everyone should give back during the holidays in one way or another–no matter how small or great the gesture be.

hondurasI’ve encountered several people over the years who are always willing to give back, but they don’t necessarily know how to, or where to go, or what they want to give to. To make it a little easier, I made a comprehensive list of ways to give back: This includes donating, volunteering, adopting, etc. Any way you give back is fine by me, even if it’s just bringing a pie to your neighbor (my neighbors just did this for me yesterday and I thought it was amazing so I highly recommend this option). But if you do want to seek out other ways, I hope my list helps!

The saying “dogs are a man’s best friend” is an age-old saying for a reason. Animals are so loyal and have nothing but love to give to their owners. And of course it’s not only dogs! All domesticated animals need loving homes. Personally in our house, we currently have one dog, two cats, one pygmy possum, two frogs and a bearded dragon (and we usually have more than this!). I support the adoption and fostering of all animals. Here are some places you can look into for pet adoptions.

1. All Paws
2. Pet Finder
4. Home 4 the Holidays

Endangered Species
There are so many beautiful species and the world would be a much duller place without them. Although you can’t necessarily adopt a lion and bring it into your home, you can figuratively adopt one (and many other species) so that experts can work to save their species and their wildlife habitats.

5. World Wildlife Foundation
6. Defenders of Wildlife
7. National Zoo Adoptions
8. National Wildlife Federation

bordercarsIf you’re looking to buy a new car or just have one sitting in your garage that you never use, consider donating it! There are so many working poor people that have to endure terrible commutes just to get to work, and a car would really help them out.

9.  Donating is Easy
10. Wheels for Wishes
11. Cars Helping Veterans
12. Donate a Car
13. Kars 4 Kids
14. Cars to Cure Breast Cancer

bordercellphoneI know so many people who just have old cell phones in their junk drawers that they’re never going to use again. I also know that when I used to work with the homeless, one of the biggest barriers to them getting a job was that the business which they applied for couldn’t get a hold of them. Donating old cell phones is an easy way to help out!

15. Pace Butler
16. GRC Recycling
17. Second Wave Recycling
18. Cell Phones for Soldiers
19. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
20. Verizon Wireless Hopeline

bordercleanwaterAccording to water.org, hundreds of millions of people go without clean water access. Additionally, 3.4 million people worldwide die of a water related illness. And according to UNICEF, nearly 1,400 children under five years old die every day from unclean water and improper sanitation.

21. UNICEF Tap Project
22. Water.org
23. The Water Project
24. Compassion Water of Life

borderclothesDonate Pajamas
There are so many children in the US who live in shelters, group homes, orphanages, etc. They’ve never experienced being tucked in in their own bed or snuggling up in their own pajamas and hearing a bedtime story. The Pajama Program tries to help change that by donating pajamas and books to these children to let them know that someone cares.

25. The Pajama Program

Donate Socks
This agency allows you to donate socks to seniors who would otherwise go without them.

26. Socks for Seniors

Other Places to Donate Clothes

27. The Salvation Army
28. Goodwill

borderflightsI live far away from my family, so I know that every time I need to go home, I need to save up for a flight. And flights are expensive, really expensive. The Make-A-Wish Foundation runs an awesome program called “Wishes in Flight” where you can donate your air miles to someone to grant their wish. According to Make-A-Wish, they would need 2.5 billion miles, or 50,000 round-trip tickets in order to cover every travel wish each year. So, if you’ve saved up some frequent flier miles, consider donating some of them!

29. Wishes in Flight

borderfoodFood Banks
Food is always a great thing to donate. So many people in the US are unable to scrounge money up for groceries, or use their last few dollars to feed their children. Food banks are a temporary solution for these people, and food banks rely solely on donations. With Feeding America, you can find a local food bank in your area to donate to. There are 46,000 agencies in the Feeding America family—these agencies have provided food for 46.5 million Americans (or 1 in 7 Americans).

30. Feeding America

Meals on Wheels
This is a popular program that provides/delivers meals to seniors in need.

31. Meals on Wheels

Free Rice
This is an organization I just learned about and I absolutely love the concept. It’s a game that you play (like trivia) and for every question you answer correctly, they donate 10 grains of rice to help end hunger. Super cool.

32. Free Rice

borderhairDonating hair is a popular concept, as hair is kind of a disposable thing for some people—cut it and it will grow back. However for many, especially cancer patients, they don’t have this luxury. Donating hair allows them to have beautiful wigs to flaunt and boost their self-esteem during an otherwise extremely difficult time.

33. Locks of Love
34. Pantene Beautiful Lengths
35. Wigs for Kids

borderloansThis organization is really awesome and I think it’s a brilliant concept. Basically, you send a loan to someone who doesn’t have access to traditional banking methods. These loans can be as little as $25 and are often used for entrepreneurial efforts.

36. Kiva

bordermilitaryAdopt a Hero
The “Adopt a Hero” concept is a way to make our military feel a little more comfortable while they’re deployed. You have the option to “adopt” a particular service member and send them care packages and write them letters so that they feel a little more at home while they’re overseas.

37. Adopt a Hero
38. Adopt a Soldier

A Million Thanks
With the A Million Thanks organization, you can either send a letter to an active, reserve or veteran military member—either for a “thanks” or a letter of encouragement. You can also grant a wish made by an injured veteran. Lastly, you can fund a scholarship for children of fallen military so that they are still able to go to school.

39. A Million Thanks

borderpickupsDo you have a bunch of stuff to donate, but limited time to drive it somewhere, no room in your car, or just don’t know where to bring it? Vietnam Veterans of America has an amazing program called “Pickup Please” where you can schedule an appointment for them to come pick up your donations. They take anything from shoes to clothes to toys to kitchenware to books, etc.

40. Pickup Please

Tom first started solely with shoes. The concept was, you would buy a pair of shoes, and Toms would give a pair to a child in need in a developing country. I absolutely love Toms because when I was volunteering in Honduras a few years ago, I visited an orphanage and all of the children were running around in Toms. I got to see it first hand and it was amazing. Now, the concept of Toms has broadened as they’ve joined forces with Target. Now, when you purchase an item from the Toms for Target collection, either shoes, a blanket, or a meal are donated to those in need.

41. Target + Toms
42. Toms

Other ways to donate shoes

43. Soles 4 Souls
44. Donate your old shoes
45. Shoes 4 Africa

bordertoysI remember how many toys I had as a kid, and how many I still have! It’s hard for me to imagine a childhood without toys. I love that there are ways to provide toys to children that would otherwise go without any. This particular organization is affiliated with the Marine Corps which holds a special place in my heart (shout out to my lovely boyfriend).

46. Toys for Tots

bordervolunteerDo you know you want to volunteer or donate but you’re not sure where or what’s a good fit? These sites are awesome to help you find agencies/organizations in your area that will be a great fit.

47. Volunteer Match
48. Charity Navigator
49. Big Hearted Families
50. Serve.gov


I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and keep the less fortunate in mind. If we all help a little, the world would be a much better place. What are some ways you give back?

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    • Catherine Elsby says

      That’s amazing, Debi! One of my favorite presents as a child was when my grandma adopted me a manatee. You just don’t forget presents like that.

  1. Kim Bergeron says

    Wow! what an amazing list. I love finding information like this and sharing it with my kids. No excuse to give it back somehow!

    • Catherine Elsby says

      Katie, thanks for donating! Every little bit counts. And I agree, I would much rather my gifts go to those in need.

  2. says

    I donated a car once and it was SUCH an easy process. I love that it’s the gift that keeps on giving – transportation to jobs, sometimes a place for warmth … a big impact for some families!

  3. Eliz Frank says

    The holidays are a great time to stop and consider how fortunate we have all been and then share some of that good fortune with others. I like your list.

  4. says

    Our family is looking for this summer holiday. That feels exciting and irresisible. Your post inspires me a lot and I think my family will also. Thank for such great list. Keep it up!

  5. says

    Thank you for sharing our resources with others! Our Big-Hearted Families™ program is still in place with new kindness tools and resources for family volunteering being added all the time!

    The old URL redirects now to our new URL DoingGoodTogether.org

    Thanks for all you’re doing for families!


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