7 Nontraditional Ways to Give Back This Holiday Season

By Sara Tetzloff posted 12-16-2021 09:17


‘Tis the season for giving. And nothing feels better than finding a unique way to make a difference during the holidays.

If you are still thinking about what you can do, perhaps this story will inspire you:

Mackay asked for a dog last year, and her mom said Santa was ready to deliver. But as the seven-year-old searched through the shelter for her perfect pet, she also decided she wanted something else under the tree.

Mackay asked her family and friends for gifts to help the animals still waiting for a home, along with those cats and dogs living with low-income seniors in her community. She ended up donating hundreds of dollars’ worth of toys and food to both the area animal shelter and the Kibble on Wheels program for pets, similar to Meals on Wheels for people.

Did she miss out on getting her own gifts?

Absolutely not!

Instead, it made Mackay happy to be able to give to others during the holidays. She enjoyed it so much, she’s doing it again this year, and getting her classmates involved, too.

If collecting food and toys for animals isn’t quite the idea you are looking for right now, here are a few other nontraditional ways to make a positive impact for others this holiday season.

  • Love wildlife or the outdoors? Give the gift of a park membership or symbolically adopting an endangered animal for your loved one. You can also look to the stars and name some for your family or friends.
  • The next time you’re out and about, pay for the coffee or groceries of someone in line behind you. Or, put a couple of extra things in your cart to donate to a local food bank. Check out this list for some inspiration. A little kindness can go a long way, and you may be surprised how good it makes you feel.
  • Enjoy art or crafting? Share your talent by painting murals to brighten up a neighborhood or make blankets, masks and slippers to donate.
  • Community shelters are often looking for extra help around the holidays. Many welcome homemade donations like blankets or socks. You can also help at the shelter by serving food, cleaning, or whatever may be needed to support those without a home. You can use this directory of shelters to find the ones located in your area. 
  • Rather donate something other than money? Giving blood is a great way to give back and is usually in high demand around the holidays.
  • If you like to teach or are particularly into learning, offer your skills or experiences as a virtual tutor or a docent at a museum or gallery.
  • Have a favorite organization? Consider contacting them directly to ask if they have a wish list or any specific needs. I recall one nonprofit with a home rehab department that would add safety bars in halls or bathrooms, check on non-slip rugs, and more, all to allow a resident to return to their house without fear of falling after a surgery. Some may have a “giving tree” for residents or patients.

Whatever you choose to do, enjoy finding your own way to give back this holiday.

If Mackay can make it happen, so can you.

Happy Holidays!

1 comment



12-22-2021 09:29

This is such a refreshing post! This year some friends and I used some of our extra holiday cards from years past and wrote notes to drop off at a local Senior Citizen Center.  It was a fun activity that we hope will brighten someone's day.

We also gathered school supplies for children who may have joined the school year late or were in need of additional supplies throughout the year. It really opened my eyes to thinking about giving during "off times". There are a lot of school drives right before school starts, but the need for supplies is year round. It felt good to know that these kids will have what they need!

I've always wanted to "pay it forward" for the next person in line - you've motivated me to actually do it this year :) Thanks for the inspiration!