Michelle Obama once said, "Success isn't about how much money you make; it's about the difference you make in people's lives." Most of us know that charity is its own reward. The true wealth of charity is measured by good deeds, not ego and material gain. Countless studies validate the benefits of giving, not only for the ones on the receiving end but for the ones who support those in need. Benefits of giving back include feelings of happiness and wellbeing, as well as inspiring a greater sense of purpose in life. Volunteering is also a great way to boost self-esteem and may help you discover talents you never knew existed within you. 

The upcoming holiday season is a time of celebration, but it is also a time to reflect, and give back to those in need -- but many of us feel overwhelmed by the complexities of the problems facing our communities. You may also feel that you don't have the time or resources to help but giving back doesn't necessarily mean a great outpouring of time or money. 

Here are some ways you can make an impact right now, and for the most part, the whole year through. 

1. Donate blood. You could help save more than one life with just one donation

2. Check out Volunteer Match - connects people with organizations with local events that match your interests.

3. Offer your skills: Become a mentor or tutor to someone who would benefit from your experience. 

4. Fill a new or gently used knapsack with toiletry items and give it to a homeless person -- or donate directly to a local shelter.

5. Help someone get active -- offer to walk with a friend or sign up for physical activity together. 

6. Give your time and undivided attention to a child. 

7. Drop off "Secret Santa" gifts to an elder care home or hospital -- many seniors are alone over the holiday season and don't have gifts to open. 

8. Volunteer to do yard work or shovel snow at an elderly neighbor's house. 

9. Spend time with a senior and listen to their stories. 

10. Help your kids organize a food or clothing drive or other charitable event. If your event needs a promotional boost, submit your event info to sixdegrees.org -- an organization started by Kevin Bacon that connects  celebrities with good causes through social networking. 

11. Buy gift certificates from your grocery store and donate to a local Food Bank. Here's a list of Food Bank items that are needed all year round. 

12. Offer to babysit for a couple or a single parent who don't get out often. 

13. Send an encouraging message or handwritten note card to someone going through a difficult time. 

14. Donate cat and dog food to an animal shelter. 

15. Register to be an organ donor. 

16. Help end childhood hunger in your own backyard - support No Kid Hungry initiatives.

Ways to Give Back at Work 

Companies that embrace philanthropic efforts enjoy a number of significant advantages that contribute to the mutual benefit of both management and employees on every level. For example, loyalty and morale rise in direct correlation to the enhanced sense of personal engagement and connectedness of the employees, since they are proud to be associated with a company that cares and does good for others. Team building also happens at a higher level, as employees work together towards a common goal.

Here are five ways to kick-start change within your company: 

17. Explore particular causes with your employees to determine the ones they would like to champion. Choose charities or organizations whose objectives align with your company's culture or corporate mission. 

18. Select an employee or ambassador to communicate your organization's philanthropic efforts. 

19. Organize team charitable events. For example, volunteer with a local Habitat for Humanity home building project. The collective group can work together to achieve something for the community while serving as an effective team-building event for employees. 

20. Support employees' personal philanthropic ventures by providing paid time off to participate in community charitable events. 

21. Sponsor local events and youth sports teams.

Ask Yourself How You're Going to Give Back
Published on: Oct 18, 2017