A Guide to Giving Back to Your Community

February 9, 2017

Have you been feeling kind of empty lately? Lacking empowerment? Between the demands of work, family, friends, and other commitments, it’s easy to feel over/underwhelmed  and unfulfilled. If you've had a particularly bad day, it might be tempting to fill the empty space with a range of “things”: going out for dinner or drinks more nights than you normally would, buying a shiny new toy, or partaking in any number of other “solutions” you think might make you feel better (if only for a moment or two).

Instead of blowing a hole in your budget to make yourself feel better (here’s looking at you, frivolous spenders), why not opt for ways to be a part of and give back to your community? Whether you choose to give time or money, there are real benefits—both tangible and intangible—that will serve as a far greater mood enhancer than any of the crutches you might otherwise rely on. (Not to mention you’ll likely become physically and financially healthier, too.)

As anyone who’s ever had to manage volunteers can tell you, it can feel a lot like herding cats. But jokes aside, it’s the volunteers that often make up the backbone of many service-oriented nonprofits. If you’ve given your time before, you’re familiar with that awesome feeling you get in return. One of the organizations synonymous with serving those in need is the United Way. Did you know the United Way was actually founded in Colorado (in Denver, to be exact) in 1887? Yes, it’s come a long way in the last 130 years, but their underlying principle remains the same: to ensure that “…individuals and families can meet their basic needs and are afforded every opportunity to move toward economic success.” That’s a powerful mission, and one you can have a part in making a reality. Check out their volunteer opportunities through the Mile High United Way, and prepare to enshroud yourself in the warm and fuzzies that comes with making your little corner of the world a better place.

Not in the Denver Metro area? Pueblo County has one of the strongest United Way chapters in the state, and the United Way of Mesa County has partnered with other nonprofits to address the unique challenges faced by many on the Western Slope.

If you’re looking for something a little more niche, try asking your friends, family, and coworkers about organizations that share your values. There are so many people in Colorado working to make our state an even better to place to live, you’d be hard pressed not to find something.

Charitable giving
OK, we get it. You’re already cramming 25 hours of stuff into a 24-hour day, and there’s no way you can fit volunteering into your schedule. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still make a difference.

If you missed our recent posts on giving to charity, check them out first. Then, armed with that info, start researching (Googling counts). Remember: 501(c)3 is a tax classification, not a green light to give—so, be sure to ask yourself, Does the organization share my values? Do they do the kind of work I want to support? Beyond there being a clear parrallel between the goals and mission of a particular organization, you’ve got to make sure they’re, well, kosher (figurately speaking). For this, the Secretary of State’s website is your friend

Can’t afford to give money? That’s OK. Many charities look for non-monetary donations, but make sure to visit their website or call before donating—while dropping off 500 cans of mystery non-perishables might sound extremely helpful in your mind, most organizations are in need of specific items.

Spreading the word
It’s not enough to simply give time or money. Truly making a difference in your community means getting others involved, too. This can be as simple as tweeting/snapping/posting about your experience, or following your favorite charities and nonprofits on social media, and sharing their posts with friends and followers.

No matter how you choose to give back, there is no shortage of opportunities. And who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire others to follow your lead along the way (queue those warm fuzzies).

Do you have a favorite charity of nonprofit you want us to know about? Leave ‘em some love in the comments!