The holidays are as much about giving gifts as they're about receiving them. From tangible items to good deeds, there are lots of ways to give back to others this Christmas. Here's a rundown of ways to spread some joy.
--Sing! Spread goodwill by going Christmas caroling through your neighborhood, or visit a senior center or a kids' hospital. However, be sure to get permission from the facility first.
--Buy gifts that support charities. You're going to buy Christmas presents anyway so why not purchase gifts that help good causes? For example, consider purchasing a "Slice of Hope" necklace or a stuffed animal from the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, whose mission is funding childhood cancer research.
"Buying presents for others, that give back at the same time, is probably the easiest way to feel charitable during the holidays," says ALSF's Annie Korp. "It's a win-win!"
Toms Shoes gives one pair of shoes to charity for every pair purchased. They've already provided over 75 million shoes to kids in need. And stuff stockings with art supplies from Yoobi. For every item purchased, the company donates a product to a U.S. classroom.
--Show your gratitude for the military. Give back to military charities this December. Send a holiday card or care package to military members overseas; start a collection drive; or fund scholarships for families of vets. Check out AMillionThanks.org and OperationGratitude.com to get started.
--Donate goods. This time of year, many worthy charities have toy drives for kids in need. Toys for Tots has more than 700 donation sites across the country. Whether you give one toy or gather the family to shop for lots of playthings, your contributions add up. In the past year, Toys for Tots distributed 18 million toys to children in need.
--Donate money. Contribute cash to a cause you believe in such as bolstering early education, helping the homeless or feeding the hungry. Consider a financial gift to Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks. You'll feel merry knowing your gift is helping keep families fed during the holidays.
Love animals? Use your money to support your favorite pet charities including local shelters and national groups like American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. You can also contribute to zoos, aquariums and wildlife rescue groups.
--Volunteer. Donate your time to a worthy cause during the holidays -- and the rest of the year, too!
International hunger relief organization, Rise Against Hunger, distributes food and aid to people in need around the world. Their goal? To end hunger by 2030. This season, they're encouraging individuals, families and small groups to plan or attend meal-packaging events. Volunteers set a fundraising goal to finance a set number of meals, which cost 29 cents each. Then they get together as a group, assembly line-style, to pack nutritious dehydrated meals comprised of rice, soy, vegetables and 23 essential vitamins and minerals. These packaged meals support school feeding programs in developing countries.
Food banks need help sorting donations and packing boxes. Meals on Wheels is asking people to donate their lunch break to drop off a meal and spread a little cheer to a senior citizen.
Find a volunteer opportunity near you by contacting local charities, schools and shelters. Search for opportunities online and check social media for volunteer prospects, too.
Smart Charity. Before donating your time, money, goods or services, make sure the charity is valid and will use the donations wisely. CharityNavigator.org is a nonprofit has rated over 8,000 charities. The Better Business Bureau's BBB Wise Giving Alliance charity evaluator uses 20 standards addressing charity governance, effectiveness reporting, finances, fundraising and appeal accuracy to judge charities, as well.