You probably don’t need anyone to tell you that being involved in philanthropic work can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but we’ll remind you anyway: It looks great on a résumé, can lead to meaningful friendships and connections, may boost your self-confidence and can help improve the condition of your community or someone else’s. So if you haven’t given back in a while, or if you’re just looking for some new ways to give, take a look at this roundup of ideas for supporting the causes you hold near and dear.
Sharing gifts. When someone mentions charity, people often think of monetary donations. If you’ve budgeted for philanthropic giving, or if you can see a place in your budget where you can add it in (maybe donate what you would have spent on an indulgence like a meal out), then by all means, share! We know that college can be expensive, though, so think about these nonmonetary donations as well:
Clothing drives. Go through your wardrobe and donate the pieces you don’t wear anymore. Maybe you have some tops that don’t mesh with your current style or pants that don’t fit as well as they used to. A person in need would love to have these. It’s a win-win: Help others as you clean out your closet.
Food drives. Especially in winter months, local shelters collect canned and other shelf-stable foods. Check your pantry for things like canned fruits, vegetables and soups you can spare. Remember that every item helps; your donation can help keep someone else from going hungry.
Blood drives. If you are healthy and strong, donating blood is an excellent way to give back to the community. Your blood may help save someone’s life.
When you give tangible items — cash, clothes, food, etc. — be sure to ask the nonprofit’s organizers whether you may be eligible for a tax write-off based on your gift.
Sharing your time and talents. Donating time and effort, and sharing your knowledge and insights can be an extraordinary gift to others. Here are a few examples of where you can help:
Mentorship programs. If your school offers mentorship programs and you have expertise to share, consider volunteering to be a mentor. You have the potential to help other students in areas where you thrive, imparting your wisdom and sharing life experiences, and might also form some unexpected academic connections and friendships.
Alternative spring breaks. Some students choose to spend spring break working on a service project of some kind instead of going to a beach or another vacation spot. With so much time, you may be able to give more of yourself than is possible during school semesters — making meaningful progress on building homes for people in need, for example, or traveling to an impoverished community overseas to help with a sustainable agriculture effort. Check with your college or university to see whether they offer opportunities for you to get involved.
Homeless/Domestic abuse shelters. There are many ways to help local shelters; start by asking them what they need. Things as simple as spending time with the people living there can make a world of difference in their lives, especially during the holiday season, when loneliness can be at its peak. You may also be able to organize clothing or food drives in your dorm or community to benefit the shelter of your choice.
Soup kitchens. Local soup kitchens and food pantries are often looking for volunteers to help serve food, assemble care packages and deliver these packages to other facilities or areas within the community.
Animal shelters. If you love animals, consider volunteering at an animal shelter. Many of them welcome volunteers to help with walking, feeding and grooming the animals.
Where do you start? Schools often keep up-to-date listings of volunteering opportunities for interested students. Check your student center to see what resources they may offer. If your school doesn’t keep listings like these, you can try local community centers, city hall, or churches, temples or mosques. If you’re involved in Greek life on campus, be sure to check with your fraternity or sorority. Many of these organizations partner with local charities where you can donate your time and energy to a good cause.