We each have a role to play in giving back to our communities. A positive community can’t exist without some degree of interdependence — and positive communities thrive off of mutual care for one another. When we choose to intentionally make a difference for our community, we’re strengthening our communal bonds and creating a better environment to live.
Plus, it’s good for us, too. Giving back connects us to our fellow citizens, breaks up the monotony of life, and brings us a sense of joy and meaning. It even activates the brain’s reward center, lowering stress and helping us feel better.
Read These Ideas On How To Give Back To The Community
Shop local and support small businesses.
Studies have shown that small businesses are uniquely positioned to create meaningful jobs. Employees of small businesses are happier, as a whole, than their counterparts at big businesses.
When you choose to forego big marketplaces like Amazon, you get to support businesses that make a difference in the community, the economy, and the lives of employees. In fact, for every dollar spent at a small business, 68% comes right back into the community.
You already need to buy stuff, so choose to spend that money locally.
And if you do need to shop online, check out our list of the best Amazon alternatives for online shopping. There are even online bookstores like Bookshop.org and Libro.fm (for audiobooks) that allow you to select a local independent bookstore to support with every purchase.
Support local farmers.
Four million farms disappeared in the United States between 1948 and 2015 while, at the same time, total farm output doubled. This means that a huge amount of our food comes from an increasingly smaller number of giant corporations.
Ugh, we know.
You can help ensure that small, local farmers continue to exist (and thrive) by joining a CSA, visiting your local farmers’ market, or even visiting a local farm. Plus, your food is probably going to taste better anyway.
You can also download the Farmstand app, which helps you locate locally grown food, such as produce stands, farmer’s markets, and more.
Run for office.
The world needs more thoughtful everyday people to serve in elected positions. Every year, the U.S. House and Senate’s demographic makeup get closer to the demographics of the U.S. as a whole — but we still have room to go. Most federal elected officials are still wealthy, old, white men who identify as Christian — which doesn’t accurately reflect the life experiences of the communities they’re supposed to represent.
If you deeply care about your community, you can be a part of bringing important representation to the government — and creating positive change.
Of course, you don’t need to start with huge elected positions. Your local community needs people to serve in all kinds of positions: From city council and school board to soil and water supervisory roles.
Get energized about how you can and should run for office by listening to our podcast conversation with Amanda Litman, the founder of Run For Something. Then sign up via Run For Something’s site to get information and training on how to run for office.
Learn how to properly recycle.
Every community recycles a bit differently because every community has different waste management companies, facilities, machines, and government funding.
What’s recyclable in one city may not be recyclable in another. Many people with good intentions throw many non-recyclables into the recycling bin — an act dubbed ‘wishcycling’ — which ends up contaminating entire batches of recyclables.
Do a quick Google search to find out what you can recycle in your community (and maybe bookmark that page for easy access).
We’d also recommend making “cheat sheets” or sharing this information with your neighbors so you can all maximize your recycling efforts. (Someone in my community created an Instagram account specifically to help Portland residents know what to recycle.)
Pick up litter in your community.
Litter on the side of the road and in public parks is ugly. But it’s also bad for wildlife, expensive for your local government to pick up, and harmful to the environment.
When you choose to pick up litter, you get to have an outsized positive impact on your community.
The three best ways to do this: Adopt a block in your community, find a group in your community that does regular group cleanups, or simply pick up trash during your regular neighborhood walks. Even your dog can be an environmentalist on your next walk if you pick up your pet waste responsibly!
Share good news.
In a time where it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by or even cynical about the news of what’s happening in the world — it’s more important than ever to intentionally seek out good news.
Once you find good news, you shouldn’t keep it to yourself. Share it on social media, with your friends IRL, or even by creating a neighborhood zine.
The good news about good news is: We specialize in helping people find real good stuff going on in the world. Check out our recent good news stories, explore the best good news sites, good news apps, and good news podcasts, or even subscribe to our monthly print Goodnewspaper.
We’ve even seen people intentionally buy multiple Goodnewspapers each month so they can leave them around town for strangers to serendipitously find. As Alexis Rose would say, we “love that journey for you.”
Find an opportunity to volunteer.
While many of us imagine volunteering in terms of a shift at a soup kitchen, helping build a house, or some other sort of manual labor — the reality is that there are countless ways to volunteer.
The best way to volunteer is to find an opportunity to apply your unique skills and talents to an issue you care about.
Whether you’re volunteering your tech skills, your organizational skills, or even your ability to connect with people socially, you can make a meaningful difference in your community.
Call up a nonprofit that works on an issue you care about — and ask if you can apply your unique skills to make a difference.
One note: The key to volunteering is consistency — so pick a scheduled routine and stick to it.
Consider switching careers.
If volunteering isn’t enough for you, you might want to consider changing your career to something service-oriented.
It can feel heavy going to work each day knowing that your job isn’t making the world a better place (or might even be making the world worse). And while unethical jobs are profitable, jobs that help people and the planet can be deeply fulfilling.
Lots of people are moving towards more meaningful jobs — and you can join that movement. In fact, it might just change the way entire industries and workplaces function.
Donate to a food bank.
When many of us think of supporting a local food bank, we think of donating the canned goods that have been sitting in our pantry for too long or picking up a few extra non-perishables on our trip to the grocery store.
While this can be helpful, the best way you can help your local food bank is by donating money. Food banks get access to extreme discounts and can make the money stretch way further than individual people can. Plus, they’re able to source nutritious and fresh food to ensure they’re meeting the dietary needs of the people they serve.
Find your local food bank and donate money on a one-time or recurring basis. (You might consider volunteering with them too!)
Become a poll worker.
At a time when democracy feels more at risk than ever — it’s important for more citizens to step up and play a role in preserving it.
You can sign up to be a poll worker to help ensure that all elections are free and fair to all.
Call your elected officials.
Your elected officials are supposed to represent their constituents. (That’s why they’re called representatives, after all.) But they can’t know what their constituents think about important issues unless they hear from them.
Make it a point to look up who represents you (on a local, state, and federal level), add their phone numbers and email addresses to your phone’s contacts (bonus points if you add emojis for comic relief), and regularly call them about issues they need to care about.
Most elected officials will actually listen to your thoughts and take them into consideration. Seriously, calling your representatives works.
Explore our guide to contacting elected officials to find yours and learn more about the process.
Choose to bike or walk instead of drive, when you can.
You can play a role in reducing traffic, helping the environment, and improving your health by opting for emission-free transportation whenever possible. Public transit is great, too!
Some communities are safer for pedestrian travel than others. If your city doesn’t have safe bike lanes, sidewalks, or walkable neighborhoods, then this is something you can contact your local elected officials about.
Volunteer to help animals.
Animal shelters are always looking for volunteers to help clean their facilities, feed and walk animals, and help bring in more funding. You can find a local animal shelter to volunteer with.
Better yet, if you’re able to provide a stable and safe home for a pet — please sign up to foster or adopt an animal. It’ll make two lives better: yours and your new (furry) friend.
Contribute to a mutual aid fund.
Mutual aid funds are an incredible way to care for your community. If this is a new idea for you, read our guide to what mutual aid funds are — but the tl;dr is: You can join grassroots efforts to help distribute money to people most in need.
Mutual aid funds are common after natural disasters as a quick way to respond to immediate needs before nonprofits and government agencies are able to respond — but they’re also a common way of supporting marginalized communities who are often ignored by traditional aid.
You can use this tool to find a mutual aid network near you.
Donated blood helps people experiencing complications during childbirth, victims of gun violence or car accidents, people injured during natural disasters, and people going through surgeries.
The process is easy, isn’t painful, and you usually get to leave with a free snack.
The easiest way to give blood is to simply find a blood drive hosted by the Red Cross.
Become an organ donor.
If you want to take things to the next level, become an organ donor.
As of February 2021, there were more than 107,000 patients on the national transplant waiting list — with another person being added every nine minutes. By signing up as an organ donor, you can ensure your organs give someone else life.
Attend or host heritage and pride events.
Every community is filled with diverse people with a myriad of different life experiences — and that diversity should be celebrated.
Do some research and find out how your community celebrates heritage months, pride events, and other holiday celebrations.
Attend events for AAPI Heritage Month, volunteer with an LGBTQ+ organization in honor of Pride Month, support a Black-owned business during Juneteenth, learn how to make your town more accessible for Disability Pride Month, and more!
If your community isn’t doing something to honor the identities of your neighbors, join together to create something new and inclusive of those you care about.
Take an online bystander intervention training class.
When you see someone experiencing harassment or discrimination in your community, it’s important to know what to do. It’s natural to freeze up and stay silent — but bystander intervention trainings help citizens feel empowered to speak up and safely de-escelate the situation.
Listen to our podcast episode about the 5 Ds of Bystander Intervention and sign up for a training with Right To Be to play a role in keeping community members safe.
Donate to local nonprofits.
No matter where you live, there are hard-working, empathetic, mission-driven nonprofit organizations hustling to care for your community. And they need your help.
By donating to them (and especially by signing up for recurring monthly donations), you’re going to ensure they’re able to continue their important work.
Not sure where to donate? Think about the issues you care about most — whether it’s animals, LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive justice, refugee support, girls in STEM, or something else — and use Google (or Ecosia) to find an organization serving that purpose in your community. It’s as simple as that.
Put up a Little Free Library.
Little Free Libraries are a fun way to connect with your neighbors, share your love of reading, and increase access to books.
You can learn what it takes to start your own library in this guide from littlefreelibrary.org.
Host a Free Fridge.
Free Fridges are another great way to care for your neighbors — but instead of sharing books, you’re sharing food. They take a bit more work and they’re usually more of a team effort, but they can have a profound impact on ensuring that nobody in your neighborhood is going hungry.
Little Free Pantries also serve a similar purpose with non-perishable goods!
Explore this guide from Freedge.org about how to start your own.
Have more ideas on giving back to the community?
We're always interested in creative and inspiring ways to make a positive difference in your neighborhood, city, country, or world. Get in touch to share how you and your friends are making a difference. It might just turn into our next good news story.