The most cited reason for not volunteering is “lack of time”. When we are overworked and over-scheduled it can be difficult to find time for ourselves, let alone for other people. However, It is important to make that time. Service helps us transcend our own personal challenges as we work to address social problems and inequality. That’s good for our communities and also good for us. Living a more connected life focused on the needs of others results in a more positive outlook, less stress, and better health.  

So here are 10 ways that you can help others in just a few minutes!

  • Many homeless shelters, animal shelters, community/LGBTQI/senior centers, health clinics, and other non-profits have Amazon wishlists, making it easy to buy and ship them the items they need most. Check your local non-profits for an organization you want to support, and either look up their webpage for a link to a wishlist, or call and ask if they have one! Shop for yourself, your home, or your holiday gifts, and donate at the same time, killing two birds with one stone!
  • Help out an underfunded classroom in your neighborhood by going to donorschoose.org and entering your zip code to find teachers in need of extra supplies in your city.
  • If you like to take a morning stroll around your neighborhood, or have a dog you walk daily, take a garbage bag with you and pick up stray trash on the sidewalks and gutters as you go.
  • Follow your favorite charities and non-profit organizations on social media like Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook. When you see them advertising events and fundraisers, boost the signal! A like and a share can really help your favorite causes gain followers, raise donations, or sell event tickets. (And let’s be honest, you’ll probably be spending some time on Facebook anyway.)
  • When you cook and bake, do it in bigger batches. Cookies, brownies, and other treats can be taken down to police or fire departments as a thank you to first-responders in your neighborhood. They can also be brought to libraries, animal shelters, school administration, and other people in your communities that don’t get enough credit for their hard work! Extra meals are perfect for taking to an elderly neighbor, a pregnant friend, a bereaved family member, or a sick co-worker. Keep a few in the freezer for just such an occasion.
  • Shop local, independent stores in your hometown. Be it gifts or groceries, spending your money with a local business owner keeps your money (including the taxes on your purchase) in your community, and helps your neighbors in town run successful businesses to support their families! Plus, you usually get friendlier service while you’re there, and many offer perks that larger stores don’t, like free delivery or gift wrapping.
  • Collect old children’s books from neighbors, thrift stores, yard sales, co-workers, or library sales and take them to the local children’s hospital.
  • Put out a jar on your desk at work to collect spare change, and when it’s full, donate it! Keep your co-workers posted on where you take it and what the change in their pockets can accomplish.
  • Write a short letter to your elected officials to encourage them to support things that are important to you and your community.
  • Keep your eyes open! All year round, but especially near the holidays, there are many opportunities to do a little good. Schools, grocery stores, department stores, libraries, and train stations often have canned food drives, book drives, old eyeglass or old cell phone drives, or toy drives. There may be blood drives you can donate to in your office park or school area. Notice a neighbor who seems sick? Offer to walk their dog or take out their trash. Drop your spare change in the fundraising jars on countertops. When a cashier asks if you’d like to donate $1 to charity, say yes!

It may seem overwhelming to volunteer your time to charity, but this list proves that just a couple minutes of your time can be enough to make a difference to your community.