5 Thoughtful Ways To Give Back More In 2016

When the calendar flips from December 31 to January 1, people around the world clink champagne flutes, kiss their partners, watch shiny orbs freefall, or any combination of the above — if they aren’t already sleeping soundly that is. The moment can be a magical one, but then the reality sets in: it’s a whole new year, and you’ve got some changes to make.

Resolutions are as much a staple of New Years as sparklers and parades — typically, they represent a unique opportunity to start fresh and improve one’s self for the better. If you think about it, the most common resolutions are often conceived with tunnel vision, focusing on the self above all else. While it’s great to set goals to lose weight and watch less TV, wouldn’t it be nice if more resolutions addressed the ways we can help others, as well?

Generally speaking, resolutions are hard to make and harder to keep; for some, charity may be a better incentive for positive change because the impact is larger, and more is at stake. So, from me to you, here are 5 ways anyone can make resolutions that emphasize giving over taking.

Commit to a cause (or several)

It’s easy to say you support a cause, but how many of us put our money where our mouths are? The vague resolution to “donate more” is about as useful as “exercise more,” which is to say, not very. If you want your resolution to stick, you need to be ultra-specific and make a tangible commitment. The stronger you feel about certain issues, the better this will feel when you follow through.

So take a minute and write a list of the causes you care most about. Pick one or two, and do some research on the best organizations out there. Figure out what you can afford to offer, in terms of time and/or money, make sure funds are being used to your liking, and pull the trigger. A small monthly donation is likely cheaper than a gym membership, and will go a longer way too.

Give the gift of charity

One thing many of us do periodically throughout the year — out of obligation, mostly — is give gifts to others. Sure, candles, clothes and money are nice for some, but think about it — how often do small tokens end up re-gifted or closeted? How many are more trite than they are thoughtful?

If you know your friends and family well enough to give them presents, you probably know what they care about, too. For example, if your best friend’s grandmother is struggling with a disease, a donation in their name is a meaningful and heartfelt gift. Does your sister love animals? You can “adopt” an endangered creature for a small cost, and give her a beautiful certificate or stuffed animal as a representation of the donation.

Turn trash into treasure

Here’s an idea that may be as good for your closet as it is for those in need.

Countless first world families have more than they need, and end up throwing away vast quantities of perfectly good food, clothes and other goods every year. It’s hard to admit to ourselves that we could do just fine, perhaps even better with less stuff — but truth be told, cutting down on nonessentials can be extraordinarily beneficial. A minimalistic approach encourages sustainable living, cleanliness, and the donation of excess to underprivileged individuals.

This month, try taking an inventory of your belongings to figure out what you actually use, what you don’t, and what you could probably do without. For clothes, here’s a trick: arrange items with hangers facing a particular direction, then flip them when you wear something. After a month or two you will have a pretty good idea of what you don’t wear, which you can give to Goodwill, Dress for Success, or local shelters and churches.

Digital donations

If you’re the technologically savvy type more comfortable with apps than checks, there are more options available than ever to integrate charity into your everyday routine at little cost. For example, Charity Tap lets users donate rice to the United Nations World Food Programme through simple tapping, and compete with friends to donate the most grains — for free. Instead encourages donations in lieu of small expenses like coffee, while One Today lets you donate to a different charity every day if you like what they stand for.

For gym-goers, athletes, and anyone wanting to be more active, Charity Miles will donate a certain amount of money per mile to a charity of your choice — so you can keep that healthy lifestyle resolution afloat as well. Then there’s Tinbox, an innovative app that gives money (from a corporate sponsor) to a cause of your choice in exchange for ad placement on your smartphone.

Social Support

Lastly, social support goes a longer way than you might think at no cost to you up front. By liking and following the causes you support on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, you and your online acquaintances will be updated on their activity regularly, increasing the frequency of views, shares, and donations. It’s all a matter of staying tuned and informed, and all it takes is a couple of clicks.

These are just a few of many options out there that can be implemented to pay it forward instead of holding it back, whether the “it” in question is effort, passion, money or goods. Feel free to give it a try, or allow these ideas to inspire your own charitable resolutions!

Featured image: San Jose Library via Flickr 

Written by

Elizabeth Creekmore is a philanthropist, humanitarian, mother and Southern culture enthusiast located in Jackson, Mississippi.