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7 Stress-Free Ways to Make a Serious Impact This Year

Giving back can make the world better — and it can make you feel better, too!

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Girl holding smart phone with donation concept on screen
Girl holding smart phone with donation concept on screen

Talk to just about anyone and they’ll agree: 2020 has been a challenge. But even in the darkest days, one of the best ways to bring some brightness to your own life is to shine a light on others.

Although it can feel overwhelming to give back when you’re struggling just to get by yourself, there are some creative ways you can do some good this holiday season without feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. In fact, science suggests that performing acts of kindness can boost our own happiness… so consider these suggestions a form of charitable self-care. 

7 stress-free ways to give back this year 

Here are some feel-good, do-good options that don’t require much bandwidth.

1. Use cashback credit card rewards to donate to charities.

A cashback credit card can be an incredible tool for defraying the cost of everyday purchases. But if you’re looking for an easy way to give back, you might consider donating those rewards to your favorite charity. 

In fact, some credit card companies allow you to make donations directly, without having to cash out the rewards first. American Express, for example, partners with JustGiving to allow Membership Rewards customers to donate to more than 1.5 million charities registered in the U.S. 

If you don’t already have a rewards credit card to use for this purpose, opening a new one may come with a cash sign-up bonus that could also be used for charitable giving — or for checking off everyone on your holiday shopping list.

However, it’s always important to be wary of overspending when using credit cards, even if your spending is intended for good purposes. You don’t want your good intentions to result in maxing out your available credit, as this can have a major impact on your credit score

2. Use gift card services that help give to charities.

Ever the popular holiday gift for the person who “has everything,” gift cards represent another easy way to give back. Many charitable gift cards donate a percentage of the card’s value to a specific charity while still allowing the recipient to spend the full gift card value at participating merchants.

If you’ve received a few gift cards yourself, certain third-party vendors allow you to donate the odds and ends left on the card after your shopping spree. For example, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital accepts partially used (and wholly unused) gift cards as donations.


3. Contribute to a crowdfunding campaign to save a small business.

So many small businesses have faced serious struggles due to the pandemic, causing many to invent whole new business models to stay afloat. 

Some shops, restaurants and service providers have also tuned to crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe — which has a whole landing page dedicated to small-business relief efforts. 

Keeping your favorite bookstore or record shop alive during this unprecedented time feels good now and helps ensure you can still turn to them for your shopping needs in the future. It can also help you find ways to support businesses in distant communities that may still be near and dear to your heart, like your childhood hometown.

4. Support local businesses as you do your holiday shopping.

Another great way to help keep small businesses afloat? Patronize them! Pandemic notwithstanding, many of us are still planning to celebrate the holidays (albeit through a computer screen rather than in person). Lots of mom-and-pop shops are offering limited shopping hours or curbside pickup on items purchased online, and if you’re exhausted after a long day of holiday preparations, you could always opt for some local takeout. 

5. Shopping online? Generate donations with passive giving.

If you’re planning to shop online and have gifts delivered directly to your recipients, you could be donating to charity without spending an extra cent. AmazonSmile is one of the best-known versions of these passive giving platforms; simply select a charity that matters to you and Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of eligible items to the organization whenever you shop.

6. Donate your leftovers.

If you’re hosting a big holiday meal for your household, you may end up with more food than you can eat — food that a local family in need would really like to have. Although most food banks won’t accept fresh ingredients or home-cooked leftovers for safety reasons, if you have extra boxes of stuffing and instant mashed potatoes or canned cranberry sauce and gravy, you might be able to donate those. Free up your pantry space while filling some local tummies: that’s definitely a win-win.

7.  Take advantage of employee benefit programs that donate to charities.

While you’re checking out your HR paperwork to make sure everything’s in line for 2021, take a closer look at your employee benefits: Your company may offer an employer match on charitable giving. 

In fact, Double the Donation, a leading match provider, says that 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer a matching gift program of some sort, the majority of which are dollar-for-dollar (so if you give $200, your company gives $200, too). 

Even a fractional match can be a powerful way to amp up your charitable giving. And keep in mind that your gift (not the company’s match, though) is tax deductible, too.

Along with creating real change in your local community — and thus, the world at large — giving back can have a real effect on your own well-being. And, as we’ve seen, it doesn’t have to be hard.

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