There’s been a lot of tough stuff going on lately, and it can be frustrating to feel like you’re unable to make a difference from behind your computer screen. Your days are packed, right? Between a hectic commute, back-to-back meetings, and doing your actual job, the work week leaves little room for good deeds—especially if you don’t work for a nonprofit or other organization that’s primarily about making the world a better place.
But if you’re looking for a way to give back, things aren’t hopeless, no matter how busy you are. Whether you can spare a few minutes or a full hour, we’ve found a few small ways anyone can make a big impact.
1. Contribute With the Classics
Itching to donate to a cause, but can’t do it on your own? Try an old standby: Plan a bake sale, book drive, clothing drop, or similar event in your office. Clear your idea with the higher-ups, and once that’s done, game on! The effort can be big or small, depending on what you’re comfortable pulling together, and you’ll likely be able to wrangle a couple volunteers with an email about the charity and the event.
For an event like a bake sale or silent auction, call local businesses for donations (like that bakery with the cupcakes your co-workers are always talking about!). If you’re leaning toward a donation drive (which can be easier to pull together), give colleagues a few weeks’ notice to clean out their closets, and collect things over the course of a week so people can drop off when it’s convenient. In either case, for max participation, do your best to avoid disrupting the workday, and hold the event at lunch or on a Friday afternoon.
Sure, organizing a company-wide event can feel intimidating, but most of the time, all it takes is a couple hours and a folding table to bring people together. Throwing a humble office charity function is a simple way to have fun, support your community, and form connections with your co-workers, all for a bigger cause.
2. Give a Small Part of Your Income (or Spending)
If you’d rather give your money than your time, there are a few things you can do.
Start by seeing if your company has a corporate giving program. This is great for a couple of reasons: First, you can often have your donation removed directly from your paycheck, which means you’ll never see (and therefore miss) the money. For example, insurance giant Aflac has its Duckprints program, which has donated over $110 million to the fight against children’s cancer since it started in 1995—and sees its largest chunk of donations come straight from the commission checks of its agents. As an added benefit for social media savvy Samaritans, for every tweet, YouTube view, or Facebook mention an employee makes using the hashtag #Duckprints, Aflac will donate an additional $2, up to $1.5 million, to childhood cancer research. (That’s another great part of getting involved with corporate giving—companies often match employee donations, making your giving power even greater.)
Another way to get the charitable money flowing at work? When shopping on Amazon—either on the company’s behalf or just for yourself—do so through AmazonSmile. Eligible purchases will result in .5% of the bill being donated to a charity of your choice. Get your colleagues on board, or see if you can if you can get the whole org to sign up for maximum impact. There’s even a Chrome extension that will automatically redirect any Amazon page to its Smile equivalent.
3. Elevate Your Lunch Hour
Of course, volunteering is always an option, but many people feel like they don’t have the time. So why not eat a quick lunch at your desk from time to time so you can use your lunch break for a little good? Whether it’s once a week, once a month, or once every once in a while, whatever time you can give is great.
It may seem like an hour is not enough time, but there’s actually plenty you can do, such as:
It can take some digging to find something that fits your schedule, but many organizations will work with you to figure it out. VolunteerMatch is a great resource for finding opportunities—and even states whether organizations have a set schedule or are more flexible.
If you’d rather donate your skills rather than give any old time, look for ways to do pro bono work. VolunteerMatch also gives the option to search for virtual volunteer opportunities where you’ll help out with anything from marketing to coding. You could also reach out to organizations you care about, giving them info about your skills and offering to help where they need.
Finally, see if your company supports volunteer activities so you can take employer-approved time to give back. Aflac, for example, works with employees to volunteer for organizations like Habitat for Humanity. Other companies give a certain number of “volunteer days,” similar to vacation days, so make sure you’re using them if your company offers them (or look for this perk when searching for your next gig).
Learn more about how you can do good at Aflac!
4. Be a Good Person
Excuse the “pay it forward” moment here, but never underestimate the power of simply being a good person in making the world a better place. According to a kindness study from University of California, Los Angeles, University of Cambridge, and University of Plymouth, when we observe someone help another person, it causes us to go out and do something kind ourselves. Translation: you can catch the kindness bug, and by doing something nice for someone else, you can spread the goodness.
A few simple ideas? Take a co-worker who’s having a bad day out to coffee. Offer to help a colleague who has a lot on his plate (or even who’s carrying a lot up the stairs). Tell someone she’s done a good job. Smile at others when you’re walking down the hallway.
If you want to really help the world out, just being nice shouldn’t necessarily replace other charitable activities, but should be more of a baseline to consider as you go through your days. Combine all of these activities, and who knows the change you could affect in the long run?