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How to make a positive impact
Giving back to make a positive impact and improve your community
“…the wealthiest 10% of Americans only account for 25% of all charitable giving…”
Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa all left an irrevocable mark on humanity – but you don’t have to spend your days being a good Samaritan in order to make a positive impact on the world. There are seven billion people on this planet. What if more of us gave back, even in small ways? The effect of those billions of small gestures would be astronomical.
Did you know that most of the money given to various causes in the U.S. are given in small amounts by people in lower economic groups? Consequently, those are the causes that raise the most money and make a positive impact on those around us. These are the people who understand that giving, even when they seemingly have nothing to give, is the most valuable contribution.
Sure, the wealthy give in large amounts, but looking at the big picture, that’s not what makes the most positive impact. In fact, according to talkaboutgiving.org a person who earns $20,000 per year or under gives twice as much as someone who earns $100,000 per year. Also, the wealthiest 10% of Americans only account for 25% of all charitable giving.
The importance of giving back
When we give back, we create a ripple effect that goes far beyond those we help – especially when we think we have nothing to give. We are operating out of an abundance mindset, telling ourselves and others that we believe our generosity will come back to us and that we will be taken care of. Instead of worrying about what’s in it for us, we are instead grateful for the life we have and in a position to help others who are not as fortunate. Even small efforts can create impact and encourage others to be kinder, more forgiving and more willing to extend a helping hand.
How giving back benefits you
We want to find meaning in our lives. Giving back and learning how to make an impact on others provides that meaning because it makes life about something much larger than ourselves. It fulfills our essential human need to feel significant as well as the human need to contribute. When we help others, we grow in our personal lives and make progress toward unlocking an extraordinary life. We break out of our limiting beliefs about how much good one person can actually do in the world and see firsthand that even the smallest acts of kindness can transform lives.
Many people wonder how they can give back when they’re just getting by themselves. But how to make an impact on others doesn’t always have to be of monetary value. Some of the biggest influencers in our history didn’t give money – they gave time or resources. As Tony Robbins often says, “The secret to living is giving.” Here are some little ways you can give and make a big impact on the world.
1. Donate supplies
By donating supplies to a classroom or school, you can help some of the most vulnerable people in your community – children. Children carry our hope for the future and making sure they have the tools they need for success is a worthy endeavor. A few supplies can reward that hopefulness and help them live up to their promise.
Get involved by contacting the local school board or principals in your neighborhood’s school or school district. Or, if you have friends or neighbors with kids enrolled in school, ask them who to speak to about donating supplies. In addition to school supplies, you may also be able to make an impact by donating books or online resources such as laptops, wireless devices or software that can make a big difference for kids who don’t have access to them at school or home.
2. Feed someone
Cooking, eating together or just sharing food are still some of the most powerful ways that humans connect with each other. Unfortunately, according to the USDA, 3.1 million households headed by single mothers are at risk of hunger. Though it may not seem like you’re making a big impact on the worldwide hunger crisis, just feeding a few hungry people a week can make a huge difference in their lives. You can make an even bigger impact by chatting and making connections with the people you help feed.
Contact local homeless shelters or soup kitchens to find out what their food needs are and help the vulnerable poor in your area. Local churches are also great sources of information and they frequently sponsor food drives that make a positive impact. Reach out to other community groups in your area to see what’s there. For example, you may find produce cooperatives that donate excess food to impoverished families, groups working to welcome refugees into the community with food-related events or charity groups putting on dinners or bake sales to support their goals.
3. Become a mentor
Being someone’s mentor is a fantastic opportunity to make an impact – not just for them, but for you as well. Working with someone as their mentor allows you to hone your best skills, develop talent in your industry or art and create a lasting legacy. Anyone can be a mentor because we are all great at something. As a mentor, you get to help younger, less experienced people in your field who may have had less support and fewer resources. You can also make an impact on those of lower economic status and help them learn how to improve their futures, which is a sustainable form of making a positive impact.
To find ways to mentor others, focus on your strengths. If you’d like to work with people in your industry, look for professional organizations or opportunities through your employer. If you want to work with young people, reach out to your alma mater or through a platform like mentoring.org. You can also research organizations in your area that provide mentors for children who need positive role models. By just listening and supporting a child, you can create impact that lasts for generations.
4. Pay it forward
Want to know how to make an impact in small but meaningful ways? Try paying it forward. When someone shows or demonstrates kindness to you, don’t pay them back. Instead, pay it forward by offering kindness to others. Do a good deed or unsolicited favor for someone you know or even a total stranger. There are countless ways you can do something small that will make a positive impact on the person who receives it, and when you do, you inspire them to keep that good feeling going and pay it forward. It also helps you cultivate positive emotions and increase your own sense of fulfillment.
Pay for someone’s coffee on the way to work. Look around your neighborhood: Is there an older person or a single parent who could use some help with their yard work or a fence that needs mending? Keep a stash of gift cards with you and give them to people when you see someone who needs help or just a pick-me-up.
Even letting someone go ahead of you during rush hour traffic or opening the door for someone can make a positive impact on their day. When you continually look for ways to act kindly toward others, it will open your eyes to the love and beauty that surrounds all of us.
5. Pick up trash
Picking up trash in your community is a fabulous way to make an impact because it shows that you care about your neighborhood and take pride in where you live and work. It also sets a great example for everyone around you and it makes people feel more comfortable in their community. Make it even more impactful by getting your family together to do the work side by side.
Start anywhere you think could use some sprucing up. You can make it your practice to keep your eyes open for trash and stop to get it when you see it. Or you can take a drive around your neighborhood and see which areas need work. Maybe you can choose a park so that local children have a clean place to play. If you want to make a positive impact in this manner but feel stumped, reach out to a neighborhood group, block watch, community liaison police officer or city council member to ask for suggestions on where to start.
Being a volunteer lets you choose how to make an impact in your community doing something you care about or supporting a cause that matters to you. There is almost no limit to the ways you can volunteer.
Volunteer at an animal shelter if you care about animals. If you have a talent for working with people, hospitals rely on great volunteers. If you’re a professional and have skills you can donate to a cause, offer your expertise. Check with your professional licensure organizations for volunteering opportunities. You can also get involved with a non-profit to help them with fundraising for a worthy cause. With just an extra $50, $100 or more a month, many organizations can make a positive impact on those they serve.
7. Tutor someone
A patient tutor can enhance a student’s education and positively influence the course of their life. It can mean the difference between success and failure or the acceptance to schools and waiting until next year. If you have the skill and time, consider tutoring a student in your area.
It’s generally best to go through an organization if you want to work with kids. There are many great organizations that can help you find a way to volunteer as a tutor. Contact readingpartners.org or volunteermatch.org to find opportunities in your area. Or, if the school district or scouting organization where you live has a tutoring program, you can work with them to make a positive impact on their students or members.
Recycling may just be one of the easiest ways to make a striking impact on the world around you. You can make an impact by recycling (or not using) just one plastic bottle of water a day. It’s an easy habit to start and will make you aware of more recycling opportunities while you’re out running errands or grabbing a bite to eat. As an avid recycler, you are literally helping everyone and will make an impact on the Earth itself.
Look for new ways to recycle, reuse and upcycle things around your house. There are countless sources of inspiration online, especially on photo-based social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram. It’s amazing to see how much life people can get out of everything from old tires to plastic bottles. You can also make sure you’re buying sustainable products that are not harmful to the environment and that you carry reusable bags with you when you go shopping. Even the smallest changes can make a positive impact on our environment.
9. Donate clothing
How many outfits have been gathering dust in your closet? If it’s time for more space and less clutter, donate some clothes. You will assist people who are living in poverty and need a helping hand from a friendly stranger with little to no time or money expenditure. Sometimes an outfit that is in good shape and fits is all a person needs to change their limiting beliefs into empowering ones and get a job or promotion that will improve their life.
You can ask your local homeless shelter about their clothing needs or reach out to organizations like United Way which function as umbrella groups. Check with domestic violence shelters as many women leaving dangerous situations flee without their possessions and desperately need clothes and toiletries. Also, consider looking up groups that help homeless teens in your area; these vulnerable teens are often on the street without their belongings, and clothes to wear to school and/or work will make a positive impact on them.
10. Donate blood
Donated blood helps save lives every day, and since blood can only be stored for limited amounts of time, there is always a need for more. Donating blood is a fantastic way to positively impact your fellow humans. You can find out where to donate through Red Cross, United Blood Services or your local hospital. Donating blood can save lives and make a positive impact on the families who are able to continue spending time with their loved ones due to your donation.
11. Use apps that give back
Almost all of us use apps on our phone every day, but did you know there are apps available that help you make a positive impact on organizations in need? Apps like Donate a Photo, Charity Miles and Give2Charity provide easy ways to give back by doing activities as easy as taking a picture, going places you love and working out. You can also share what you do on social media to inspire those in your network to create impact on a larger scale.
12. Volunteer your dog
Does your dog love giving attention to others? If so, you have the perfect way to make a positive impact living right in your own home. You can train your dog to be a therapy pet at a local hospital, nursing home or airport to give those who are sick or in need life-affirming love. You can also take your well-trained dog to local parks or other public areas and encourage others to give him attention.
13. Run errands
Do you have elderly residents in your neighborhood? Do you have friends who have just had babies or are struggling with childcare due to their work schedules? You can give back and make your community a stronger place by offering to lend a hand. Pick up groceries for others when you make your normal store run, offer to babysit and give a parent a much-needed break or include a dinner portion to bring over to a neighbor who recently underwent surgery. These are acts that maximize your time and build your relationships with your neighbors, which can jumpstart your community into one that makes never-ending contributions.
When you evaluate your life, you’ll likely find that if you don’t make a positive impact on the lives of others, you’ll feel that something is missing. When you commit a portion of your time, energy or resources to helping others, you’ll create a deeper sense of fulfillment for yourself and make an impact on those around you. For volunteer opportunities in your area, visit VolunteerMatch.