Five creative ways to help nonprofits this holiday season if you can’t donate monetarily

The season from Thanksgiving through the end of the year is traditionally known as the “season of giving.” During the holidays, people are extra generous, and even those with very little often try to give back. But many individuals and corporate donors who usually give are struggling themselves this year.

Having spent close to thirteen years working for a nonprofit health and human service provider, I understand what end-of-year giving means to organizations. 2020 is not a typical year by any stretch of the imagination. Nonprofits in all sectors have been affected by canceled fundraising events, decreases in donations, intensely competitive grant processes, reductions in government contract funds, high unemployment, and other downturns due to COVID-19. Needless to say, nonprofits, like many individuals, are struggling to make ends meet.

I have seen many instances in previous years where people with very little give because they know what it feels like to struggle. Those moments are often viewed as beacons of hope and inspiration. In any ordinary year, I would agree because “every little bit counts.” I truly believe in this phrase, but in this unusual year, I encourage those who are struggling but want to give to think about that phrase in the context of their own situation. Perhaps consider giving back in ways that won’t overextend personal budgets.

Here are some creative ways you can support organizations through this season of giving if you are moved to do so but cannot afford the cash outlay:

Look around your home.

Are there things sitting there that do not bring you joy (#mariekondo) and are not being used? Can you sell them on Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, eBay, Poshmark, or another online marketplace? Take time to take pictures, create listings, and sell the items. Then, consider donating the money from those sales to a nonprofit of your choosing.  If the items don’t sell, research nonprofits that can use the items. Upon making that donation, include a written note that permits the nonprofit to do whatever they want with those goods. This gives them the freedom to use donated goods themselves, give them to people they serve, or sell the items and take the proceeds to benefit their programs, services, and organizations.

Donate your skills.

If you have a specific trade skill you’re able to share, contact a nonprofit that you are interested in supporting, and see if they need a volunteer with your skillset. Nonprofits need help with everything from accounting, pro bono legal advice, skilled carpentry work, plumbing, general handyman services, cleaning services, graphic design, website development, PR/communications strategy, HR services, project management, #mariekondo organization, database management, mediation, office work, and much more!  I recognize that many of you in these fields may be out of work yourself, and of course, your priority must be finding income opportunities for yourself. This suggestion is primarily for those still employed and have the extra capacity to donate time instead of money.

Engage online.

If you have social media accounts, engage daily with organizations you support or would like to support and help spread the word about the work they are doing. Like and share program updates, success stories, fundraisers, and special events. This is an easy and free way to support organizations, especially during the pandemic. Some of the typical communication methods are not as readily available to organizations trying to get the word out about what they do and what they need.

Help bridge connections.

Contact organizations you want to support and see if they need help bridging relationships. For example, the organization may be working on a project, program, or navigating a complicated matter – and maybe you know someone who is involved or can help move that along. Simply making an introduction can often be super helpful to that nonprofit who otherwise would find it difficult to “open the door” to an essential conversation and connection needed for a program, project, or organizational success. This also applies to recruitment: if the nonprofit you are supporting has job vacancies, spend time thinking about those you know who might be a good fit for those positions, and then encourage them to apply.


This year, organizations serving socially isolated individuals like seniors, the disabled, and others with limited mobility might need extra help around the holidays. Ask what the needs are, and then see if you can help. You might find that you can help with tasks from your home, like phone call check-ins or writing Christmas cards.


This holiday season, please take care of yourselves and your individual and household needs before you stress about taking care of others. The struggle and strain are real this year – not just financially, but emotionally and psychologically. Many families carry the load of helping with children’s distance learning, taking care of high-risk elderly parents, dealing with depression and anxiety, and experiencing difficulties with isolation. While the holiday season calls for people to lift up and serve others, please put on your oxygen mask before helping others put on theirs.

I hope this was helpful to those who feel a strong urge to support nonprofits but who are unable to donate monetarily this year. Even if you can’t do any of these suggestions or donate money– please do NOT feel bad. My wish for everyone this season is that you end the year with your oxygen mask on.


Photo credit: HUGS

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