3 Ways to Give Back This Holiday Season If You Can’t Afford to Make a Donation

Before I started working in nonprofit fundraising, I was a nonprofit employee’s worst nightmare. I’d send emails to spam without a second thought, change my event RSVP at a moment’s notice, and recycle any pamphlets that came my way. I just wasn’t thinking about it! 

Now that I’ve worked in fundraising for almost five years, it’s opened my eyes to two things. First, the work goes into seemingly “little things” like email blasts, social media posts, and event invitations. That event I waited until the last second to RSVP for? Well, now someone needs to re-print name tags and reconfigure their seating chart at the 11th hour. Or that pamphlet I shrugged and tossed? It took multiple people weeks of editing to put something in my mailbox that would alert me of a worthy cause. 

The second thing I’ve learned is the different ways someone can support an organization without needing to donate a large amount of money. Tons of companies, organizations, and obligations are vying for our attention on a daily basis, especially during the holiday season. 

Being on the other side of the fence (working at a nonprofit and clamoring for people’s attention) has made me a lot more sensitive and open to organizations that view me as a constituent. 

While I would love to have limitless disposable income that I can dedicate to philanthropy, right now, I need to think creatively about ways to support organizations I care about. Read on for three insider tips, straight from the source! 

RELATED: How to Give Back When You’re Broke

Engage with emails and social media posts

It might seem silly, but opening an email from your favorite nonprofit and clicking a few of their links goes a long way toward boosting engagement rates! Many foundations tend to care about engagement and ask about your numbers when deciding whether or not to donate money to an organization. It’s a data point that demonstrates how connected and engaged people are with the mission. Opening and responding to calls to action, whether on social media, email, or text, go a long way! 

So if you can, try to hold off on unsubscribing or filtering their emails to spam. It doesn’t take much to open an email and archive it, but it can really help that organization when it comes to their open- and click-rate statistics. 

Likewise, engaging with content on social media can help a lot with combatting pesky algorithms that boost celebrity and big-brand content and bury smaller accounts. What does engagement look like, you ask? For starters, following is huge– but also liking posts, commenting on them, and sharing them with your friends helps a lot with those stats. Plus, if you’re not in a position to donate, boosting the nonprofit in the algorithm may help their content reach the eyes of someone who can contribute! 

RELATED: 7 Ways to Pay It Forward This Season

Volunteer your time and resources

Nonprofits put on a lot of events, and they aren’t solely for raising money. In fact, in fundraising, we have something called “moves management,” which is a pipeline of sorts. One of the most important aspects of that pipeline is stewardship, which means maintaining relationships and connections to the organization. So your attendance at an event means a lot to the people in the room, solely because you’re there. 

Showing up matters a lot for nonprofits, especially smaller ones. Some events might be big and serious like an annual fundraising gala– and there’s a place for those– but others could be a more relaxed holiday “cocktail and mingle” event or bagging lunches for the unhoused on a Saturday morning. It really depends on the organization, and what you’re able to make time for.  

RELATED: Make a Difference: Volunteer With Your Friends

If you can, make a participatory gift

Once, at a highway rest stop, I stumbled upon a profound quote about fundraising painted across an entire wall, and said something to the effect of “I would rather receive one dollar from a million people than a million dollars from one person because it means a million people believe in our mission.” 

That quote has stuck with me ever since. It sums up why fundraisers and nonprofit staff do what we do every day. It truly takes a village, and is not always about who makes the biggest or splashiest gift– it’s the kindness, generosity, and consistency of supporters, at any level, that help make the mission a reality. 

So the next time a nonprofit sends you a message about how “every gift counts,” believe them! And if you’re able to, make a small gift and view it as a participatory donation. Plus, if you work for a company that matches gifts, $10 can turn into $20, or $50 can turn into $150, depending on what your company offers. So don’t count yourself out!

RELATED: How to Give Back This Holiday Season (Even if You’re Busy and Broke)

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