The holidays are the perfect opportunity to spend time participating in more philanthropic endeavors. You likely have time off of work and there are days you’re free to do more philanthropic work. I’d like to offer some ways you can participate in philanthropy during the holidays. However, you should aim to make giving back a year-long goal, not just something you do during the holidays! Take this time to start a habit or tradition of giving back and continue to do good.

Use time off to volunteer

One of the best steps you can take is using your extra time off to volunteer. If there’s somewhere you regularly volunteer for a few hours a month, spend more time there! Or, if you know there’s an upcoming holiday fundraiser, offer to be a volunteer at that. It’s important to remember to let the charity know you’re interested in volunteering instead of simply showing up because the holidays are a time when they may have an influx of volunteers. Check out a few places and see where the most help is needed or start a philanthropic project of your own.

Put in time at a shelter

One of the best places to volunteer over the holidays is at a food bank or homeless shelter. These places often have special events to host holiday meals or put in extra time to help out those in need. Contact the shelters near you and see if they need help or donations of some kind.

Get involved with a drive

The holidays are when we start to see plenty of food drives, toy drives, or just general campaigns to get important items to those in need. Organizations often provide interested people with a list of items needed, so you know what you’re donated is actually something that’ll get used and not an item that’s unnecessary. When donating to charitable events like this, make sure you stick as close to the listed items as possible; if the charity needed an item, they would have put it on the list.

Connect with the elderly

The holidays can be a difficult time for older adults who are maybe living in a nursing or retirement home and do not have many relatives. Maybe you have a neighbor you know doesn’t have children or lives far away from his family. Take time to visit elderly people during the holiday season. Just spending a bit of time with them can help cheer them up and you’ll likely have extremely interesting conversations.

Research charities

If you choose to donate your money to a charity or feel inclined to give money to people stationed outside of shopping centers or when you check out, first do some research to make sure it’s a reputable charity. You can use an online resource like Charity Navigator to do your homework on whether or not a charity actually uses your money the way it should.

Send cards or gift boxes

Another popular philanthropic holiday pastime is donating boxes of goods to people in need or sending cards. Around the holidays, various organizations send out requests for items to be sent overseas to soldiers or to children in need. These programs are also conducted for people living in the United States. It can be as simple as buying a few toiletries or creating a card to send to someone in the hospital or away from home.