Five ways to give this holiday season

Are you going to do the same thing this year? Here’s a lens on giving more broadly – beyond presents under the tree.

John Kehe

This column is part of an occasional series about how you, too, can make a difference. It is written by the head of our partner organization UniversalGiving, which helps people give and volunteer in more than 100 countries.

Giving during the holidays: It’s an American tradition, and one many look forward to. This year, are you going to do the same thing? You might want to try something different. Here’s a lens on giving more broadly – and always with the holiday spirit!

Give a gift for the body. This Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Pancha Ganapati, or Bodhi Day, spread the gift of kindness through a warm coat.

Many of us have several coats. Is there one you could part with? The Warm Coats & Warm Hearts Drive, which Burlington Coat Factory and ABC’s “Good Morning America” partner on, is one initiative that provides this great service.

This is a present that gives warmth to someone, every day. Your gift of outerwear will warm the recipient’s inner heart, and yours, too.

Give a gift for the stomach. Now that you’ve taken care of the cold, you can fill a hungry stomach. One nonprofit that serves Thanksgiving meals is We Give Thanks in southern California. You can donate $25 to feed a family of four, $50 to feed two families of four, and so on. If you are in Denver, the Denver Rescue Mission provides more than 3,000 Thanksgiving boxes.

Search online for how to provide a Thanksgiving dinner in your city, and you’ll find a nonprofit or a church serving meals.

Give the gift of your home. If you want to truly give during the holiday season, invite someone to your family dinner. Opening up your home will make someone feel appreciated and allows the person to participate in your family’s unique holiday traditions. There’s nothing like being in a home over the holidays.

Give the gift of your time. Holiday giving is often about writing a check or giving a few coins to a Santa ringing the bell. To take your giving to a new level, move beyond money. Give of your time.

The greatest need for many organizations is on holidays. Get in the line to serve food or box meals. But if the soup kitchen is booked, contact a small nonprofit. And if you need suggestions, UniversalGiving is happy to help. Email with the subject line “Help me find a nonprofit to volunteer with.”

Give anonymously. This perhaps is one of the greatest ways to give. There’s no recognition, and there might not be a tax write-off. It’s a quiet, gentle way of doing something that only you know about.

This might mean contributing money to an envelope for a family who just lost their home. Maybe it’s a kind note from all the neighbors with some extra cash for a struggling single mother on your block.

You don’t have to say anything. When they open it, they will know someone cares. That makes all the difference.

Your giving should be people-changing (yourself included!) and filled with joy. Please share with UniversalGiving what you do via Facebook or Twitter, as part of our “This Is How I Give!” campaign. Or email us at with the subject line “This is how I give.”

Pamela Hawley is the founder and chief executive officer of UniversalGiving. She is a recipient of the Jefferson Award – the Nobel Prize of community service. She also writes the blog “Living and Giving.”

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