Maximize the Impact of Your Service this Holiday Season


flowers toseniors

What are your holiday giving plans this season? For many people, the holidays are a time to see family, celebrate, and reflect on what we have to be grateful for. For some, this includes volunteering their time or making donations to help those in need. At Boston Cares, the holidays are a great time to get people excited about volunteering and also reflect on how we can channel the holiday giving spirit into service throughout the entire year.

Every year, Boston Cares sees an increase in volunteer interest around the holidays. In particular, we hear from people asking about projects on Thanksgiving and Christmas day that they can do with their families. This pattern continues into the new year with 30% more new volunteers coming into our organization in January than any other month out of the year.

These patterns make sense – people get into the holiday giving spirit in November and December and get inspired to give back to their communities. Then, as the new year rolls around, folks feel energized to start off the new year doing more service so they sign up for orientations and hopefully attend a few projects. It’s always great when people are inspired to serve but what we find is that some projects benefit from the added momentum of holiday service while others struggle to find volunteers.

As reported last year by the Huffington Post, volunteer projects saw a national increase of 42% in volunteer sign-ups during the holiday season (data from HandsOn Connect, source). This is particularly true for hunger relief organizations who generally see a huge increase in volunteers who want to help serve meals and hand out food during the holidays. However, other projects such as tutoring, sorting clothes, working with adult learners, and more struggle to find volunteers during this time. And while hunger relief organizations may see an increase in volunteers temporarily, they often do not have enough volunteers during some of the busiest times such as the summer when children aren’t getting school lunches and families may need extra support.

So what can you do to make your holiday giving worthwhile and keep up your volunteering momentum into the new year? Here are 3 tips:

 1.  Spend time serving with your family leading up to the holidays or right after. Most projects on Thanksgiving and Christmas day fill up quickly but often need volunteers before or after. Consider planning a volunteer day with your family that’s not on a major holiday such as a weekend or the week before New Years when many people don’t have work or school.

2.  Plan out realistic goals for your service in the new year. Feeling inspired to do more service in 2019? Identify what is realistic for your schedule and sign up for projects in advance. Whether that’s one project a month or every other week or something else, identify a schedule that you can stick to. This way you can keep your momentum through the spring and summer when some projects need volunteers the most.

3. Don’t have time to serve? That’s OK! Consider donating to Boston Cares or another organization on Giving Tuesday (November 27th). Nonprofits are often in need of funds and can make sure your contribution goes towards helping their cause. By donating to Boston Cares, you can help power the programs that serve over 165 Greater Boston schools and nonprofits. Volunteering isn’t just nice, its necessary for the partners we serve to fulfill their missions, and we need support from individuals to make that possible!

Looking for more inspiration? Here are some upcoming projects still in need of volunteers! Check out our calendar for a full list of opportunities.

Distribute Food at East End House Food Pantry

Tech Goes Home Classes at Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation

High School Equivalency Math Tutoring at X-Cel Education (Dorchester)

Donation Sorting and Kitchen Help at Daily Table

Upcoming Boston Cares Events:

Boston Cares Holiday Bed Build  – sign up with a team to combine service and giving! Make a financial contribution to Boston Cares and build a quality bed frame for a child in need.

MLK Day of Service – Jan 21st. Keep an eye out for registration starting in early December!