It goes without saying that the holidays are a magical time. And as wonderful as I find the twinkling lights and snow-dusted sidewalks, the most magical part of the season is the tradition of giving, both to those you love and to those in need. There seems to be an innate desire to do something good for others at this time of year — to open our hearts a little wider and make a difference for good in the world around us.

Of course, it’s often easier said than done. Christmas is not only the merriest time of year, it’s also the busiest. Between the stress of shopping, cooking for holiday feasts, and fitting parties into the calendar, sometimes it feels like you blink and the season has come and gone. But I wonder what would happen if each of us took time to find just one way, big or small, to make a positive difference in the community this holiday? Here are a few easy ways to make giving back a priority this season…


Find a cause that’s right for you.

The biggest struggle I face personally is the mound of philanthropic choices that inundate us every year. We’re all infected with an innate desire to do something good for others over the holidays, but how do you choose? Don’t let the options overwhelm you… (I speak from experience!) Take some time to step back and choose a project or organization you connect with personally. No matter how big or small, if you’re passionate about the cause, you’ll find it much easier to squeeze the time into your busy holiday schedule!

Invite your friends.

I may have mentioned it before, but I suffer from a severe case of FOMO. How do I survive, you ask? By turning every possible activity into a social gathering! Last month, I got a message from my dear friend Meredith asking our group of Austin gals to participate in an event called Project Thanksgiving. Everyone agreed in a heartbeat! Between nine of us, we were able to put together a Thanksgiving meal for an Austin family in need. Not only does a group of friends make finding a cause much less daunting… it makes it a lot more fun!

Make the time.

The key here is finding the right amount of time for your schedule. If you have a spare weeknight or Saturday afternoon, schedule a festive wrapping party for an adopted Christmas family or sign up for volunteer hours at a local organization in your neighborhood. But even if you only have 15 or 30 minutes, you can still find ways to give back. Maybe it’s simply mailing a monetary donation, or taking a short drive to drop off those extra coats in your closet. You’d be surprised how many local charities have gone the extra mile to make giving back as effortless as possible. But if you do have the time, put a date on the calendar and get involved in person.

Look around you!

There are so many opportunities to give back and make a difference every day, and they’re right under our noses. Maybe it’s a neighbor, maybe it’s someone you pass on the street, maybe it’s the person next to you in line for coffee. Keep your eyes open this season, and you might just find that those unexpected moments of giving are the most impactful.

Need help getting started? I’ve linked a few causes below that I personally connect to, but there are so many more! Take the time to research the opportunities in your area, and be sure to tell us how you’re getting involved!

Lifeworks Holiday Help

Operation Christmas Child

Salvation Army’s Angel Tree

image sources: box with free printable tag from gather & feast, girl with puppy from the dogs of babel, pretty desk from the society letters, and girl on street from the little magpie

  1. 1
    hannah | December 10, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Loved this 🙂

    Hannah | Oh January

  2. 2
    xoxobellablog | December 10, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    I just love this 🙂

  3. 3
    Lemon Freckles | December 10, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Love this post! Super lovely to think about the giving side of Christmas, instead of the receiving. I try to give my time at christmas, it’s also my favourite thing to receive, someones time. x

  4. 4
    Jennifer Rose Smith | December 10, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Great story, Emily! I’m hoping to get involved this year with The Community First Village, a really cool new project benefiting the homeless in Austin. You can read more about the village here:

  5. 5
    Camille Styles | December 10, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    I’m so inspired by this, Emily! Definitely thinking about how I want to spend a day giving back this holiday season… the clock is ticking, but there’s still time. And also challenged by your tip to “Look Around You” — sometimes I find that I’m so busy looking at my phone that I miss opportunities right in front of me. xoxo

  6. 6
    Jan | December 12, 2015 at 7:31 am

    Actually, I give after Christmas and during Winter’s roughest and coldest months. Last year, my son’s 19 year-old friend Émilie Who goes to our church suggested that we make up winter survival kits to give to the homeless in Novembre, January, February and March. As you mention in your article, every one is inundated with so many choices during the holidays to give. But then, we go back to our own lives afterwards and sadly, move on after Christmas. I have done that too. So donations are gathered as of September. $35 provides à homeless person with nutritional drinks, wool socks, à warm fleece blanket, glove and boots warmers, and other necessary items. We offer them the kit and pay them à hot breakfast. It’s really heartwarming to be in direct contact with those less fortunate and creates à whole lot of gratefulness and appreciation for what we DO have. Jan fm Québec, Canada.

  7. 7
    Alejandra | December 12, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Love this blog, thanks for sharing good ideas to give back.

  8. 8
    Camellia | December 13, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Great post!

  9. 9
    Emily Hurm L. Ac., Dipl. O.M. | December 19, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Such a wonderful reminder of the importance of giving back and paying it forward! I’ve made some monetary donations but I really enjoy when I’m able to give my time to those in need. Just today I saw in an article, in Des Moines, Iowa, people are leaving winter coats tied to light poles with a note saying, “If you’re cold, please take a coat.” I just think this is so wonderful!

  10. 10
    Claudia | January 9, 2016 at 7:35 am

    It’s now post-holidays but I’m just reading this nice post. At work, my department always adopts a Christmas family or two who are in need (we work at a hospital; the social workers identify families who are struggling with both health issues and finances). This year, our two families asked only for gifts for their young children. We all had great fun buying toys, clothes, even necessities like diapers.

    Around Thanksgiving, my husband and I also started volunteering one Saturday a month at a local soup kitchen. We’re now part of the first-Saturday-of-the-month team. The soup kitchen feeds anywhere from 200 to 400+ people each day. Weekdays are busier than weekends, but on weekends they serve more families. Not everyone is homeless, but all have financial need (lunch is served to anyone who walks through the door). The facility also houses a men’s shelter and serves the residents breakfast and supper each day. A recovery program for addicts is offered and has had many successes. It’s an amazing resource for our city and is totally funded through donations.

    • Camille Styles | January 9, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      These are wonderful — thanks for sharing the great inspiration for next holiday season (or any time this year!)

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