As Cliff Richard croons on an annual basis, Christmas is indeed a ‘time for giving’.
I’m not just talking about presents, however, but your time and charity to some well-deserving causes over the festive period.
Charity is not just for Christmas, let’s get that straight; but at a time of year where the difference between those who have and have not is at its most obvious, I believe it’s even more important to give generously.
Christmas means so many things to me: warmth, food, company are just some of the words that come to mind. Add to this the gifts, celebrations and love, and I’m indeed a very lucky lady. Often, at this time of year, I pause to realise quite how fortunate I am.
Over the festive period an astonishing amount of money is spent on gifts, and trolleys are loaded with food and drink that will be enjoyed by the plateload. Everywhere you look people are enjoying and indulging and getting merry. It’s a wonderful time of year, but it’s also full of overwhelming excess, and can be so lonely and difficult for so many who are less lucky than ourselves.
So, while I do my Christmas shopping and purchase treats for my loved ones each year, I take even more time to make donations and do my bit to try to help out at a time of year that is so magical for some, and so bleak for others.
Here are ten of my favourite ways to give more this month. To quote one of the larger supermarkets, every little helps.
The Book Trust
This year The Book Trust are running a campaign for members of the public to donate a £10 book gift for a child in care this Christmas.
Books were a huge part of my childhood, and I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. Every single child should have the chance to go on adventures from the comfort of their bed; to learn about history, to travel the world between pages, and to make lifelong friends with characters they love – all from the pages of a book.
This cause is a little gesture that will make a child’s Christmas that much more magical.
The Homeless Period
This December, local charity The Homeless Period Southampton held a Period Party, where volunteers created around 300 care packages for disadvantaged women across Hampshire. Donations were collected in person and sent via an Amazon wishlist to be gifted – sanitary towels, tampons, toiletries and chocolate – and the response was phenomenal.
Periods are often unpleasant and difficult at the best of times, so you can only imagine how hard it is to go through that when homeless or in poverty.
Read more about The Homeless Period Southampton in my interview with founder, Kirsty Bates.
Let’s make the festive period a little more bearable for women who need support.
Most of us will write and post Christmas cards this year to send love to friends and family far and wide. Since you’re already planning to do this, why not donate to charity at the same time?
You can buy cute Christmas cards in most local charity shops, where your money will truly help those in need.
Alternatively, find your local Cards for Good Causes shop (or buy online!). Cards for Good Causes have a range of cards in stock from so many charities, and in so many designs, you’re sure to find a cause you want to support. I bought mine from Mind and Shelter this year. It’s easy, simple and so effective.
If you’re local to Southampton, the Cards for Good Causes shop is located in Barclays on Above Bar Street until the weekend of the 16th; do please stop by and buy, and support some fantastic causes.
Homelessness is a national epidemic; while we are all enjoying the warmth and company that comes with Christmas, there are many others on the streets who are struggling in the cold.
Supporting Crisis at Christmas is a great way to do your bit to make the festive season easier for homeless people. You can either volunteer to help on Christmas day, or donate money to reserve a place for someone at the Crisis Christmas Dinner. Just over £26 can not only give a homeless person a hot, delicious Christmas meal with all the trimmings, but also the chance for a fresh start, with advice on housing and employment, healthcare checks and access to Crisis’s facilities all year round.
Shop local, shop small
This is less about charity; but supporting small, local businesses is so important. By buying from a small business, you are directly helping the owner and founder rather than a large company. Buying cards and gifts this way means that you are not only making Christmas special for the recipient, but for the business person too, and that can make a world of difference.
Why not try to shop at local independent shops as much as possible? Local bookshops, for example, could benefit from your money much more than Amazon! Try looking for gifts on sites like Etsy, where many sellers offer unique, handmade items which are created with love and care.
You can even support your local bookshop by ordering through Hive; pick the parcel up in store and some of the money goes straight to them! Convenient and kind.
Buy The Big Issue
I once asked my friends how I could help to tackle homelessness on an everyday basis, and was met with the suggestion that simply buying a copy of The Big Issue from a vendor can make a big difference.
The Big Issue Foundation offers their vendors countless opportunities, safety, training and more, when they are at their most disadvantaged and vulnerable.
The Christmas edition of the magazine will be out soon, and it’s an easy way to give a few pounds towards a great cause, and also make someone’s day.
Next time you spot a Big Issue vendor on the street, stop, buy a copy, and wish them a Merry Christmas; it’ll take three minutes to make a difference, and maybe make their day too.
Over Christmas there are countless opportunities to donate presents towards good causes, often for children and young people who are in poverty or disadvantaged. Buying an extra gift while Christmas shopping could really make someone’s Christmas.
Collections can vary from place to place, so find out where you can donate to. Some offices hold collections, as well as food banks and supermarkets.
For example, one of my favourite collections is run by Cash for Kids. Cash for Kids run the Mission Christmas annual campaign to bring joy to the 1 in 4 children who are in poverty at this time of year. Toys and items for older children can be donated at drop off points which are often in convenient places, so you can even donate while you do your weekly shop, or on your way to work.
Christmas Jumper Day
If you work in an office, this is a fun and easy way to donate money.
Save the Children host a national Christmas Jumper Day every year and encourage folk to donate just £2 when they wear their finest festive knitwear. This year it’s on Friday 15 December. It’s time to dust off the wooly Christmas pudding and ancient Fairisle sweater!
Give as you Live
I had never heard of this until recently, but my friend Kirsty alerted it to me while I was discussing donating at Christmas.
By just shopping online through this website, you can donate to your chosen charity at no extra cost to you. It sounds super easy and is a great way to donate while you check things off your to do list!
Carry spare change
This is a very basic one to end on, but the oldies are goodies. When wandering around Christmas markets and stalls, store away the odd bits of change you get from your cups of mulled wine and stollen and save them up to drop into donation buckets when you pass by. Those 10ps and 5ps you seem to collect can add up to a meaningful donation, and it takes absolutely no time out of your day.
What are your favourite ways to donate to charity, at Christmas and all year round? Share them in the comments below to give us new ideas on how to give more generously this festive season and in the New Year.