Holiday Giving Guide: Seven Meaningful Ways to Give Back This Year

A mother hugging her two children
| 9 min read Crowdfunding

Helping others has always been a hallmark of the holiday season. Long before ugly sweater parties and pumpkin-flavored concoctions, people were spending the final months of the year lending a hand to others. And that tradition has held strong. In fact, 30% of annual giving happens in December.

From sharing a few kind words to sharing a hot meal, there are countless ways to brighten someone’s holiday season without investing too much time or money. If you’re looking for fresh ideas about ways to give back during the holidays, we’ve got you covered.

Seven ideas for giving back from the GoFundMe team

What do coupon clipping, teamwork, and snail mail all have in common? They are all ways GoFundMe team members have given back to people in Yuletides past. Read about their favorite giving experiences and use one (or more!) or their winter fundraising ideas to inspire your own holiday plans this year.

1. Spread a bit of warmth

Bethany, Community Management Specialist

A warm blanket is easy to take for granted. But when the weather turns chilly, basic household items can be the highlight of someone’s holiday season.

Bethany, a Community Management Specialist at GoFundMe, has collected blankets for a San Diego-based nonprofit for the last few years. The Alpha Project helps low-income individuals and families find affordable housing, and it also provides emergency services to the homeless. Bethany says blankets are an easy item to round up since households often replace them and forget about older blankets.

“They go a long way for many who live in underserved communities during the winter,” she says. “You’re reminded of how there are so many simple and easy ways to contribute to your community.”

2. Coupon for a cause

Katrina, Payment Risk Specialist

If you’ve ever scoffed at clipping coupons, it might be time to reconsider. Katrina, a Payment Risk Specialist and a self-proclaimed “competitive couponer,” racks up small discounts from coupons in order to buy essential items for people in need.

“I’ll go on a couponing streak for a few months that allows me to carry over money or ‘credit’ to start getting items for free,” says Katrina. “A lot of stores give you money back in the form of gift cards or credit for their store if you buy certain things.”

Katrina assembles the discounted items, like socks, gloves, and toiletries, into care packages. Her fiancé, a police officer, then hands them out during his night shift to people who look like they could use some help.

“While we do our best to give back all year round, we’ve learned that giving back over the holidays make a lot of people who feel forgotten feel loved.”

3. Send snail mail

Jeannette, Senior Regional Manager in Germany

Who doesn’t feel a spark of appreciation when opening up their mailbox to find a handwritten note waiting for them? Jeannette, a Senior Regional Manager in Germany, knows that writing holiday cards to people may be a small gesture, but it can certainly mean a lot.

“I wanted to connect personally with folks who I knew did not have relatives or friends anymore,” she says. So she worked with a nearby nursing home to send holiday postcards to residents there

“What stood out to me is how much people—old and young—appreciate random acts of kindness. It is the little things that matter, that make us enjoy life,” says Jeannette.



4. Open your home

Lauren, Customer Happiness Agent

Many people during this time of year want to spend quality time with loved ones—but what about those who can’t make it home for the holidays or don’t have a strong social circle? Offering to include those people in your holiday festivities can mean the world to them, says Lauren, a Customer Happiness Agent.

“When there’s so much public attention directed toward ‘togetherness’ and ‘family,’ it’s especially rough to be left out.”

Lauren first began organizing festive events for people away from their families when she studied abroad in Scotland. The tradition has stuck with her, and she continues to host Friendsgiving and Chinese Lunar New Year events.

“I think that the holidays are the perfect time of year to go out of your way to make sure everyone feels valued, and that they’re part of a social unit,” says Lauren.

5. Strike up a conversation

Dat, Customer Happiness Agent

Sometimes the simplest of acts can mean the most. Dat, a Customer Happiness Agent, realized this couldn’t be more true while serving food to the less fortunate at the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas dinner.

“There are a lot of people who come in for this dinner who are homeless and are generally ignored throughout their day because of the fact that they may be living on the street,” says Dat.

He has spent the last five Christmas afternoons alongside his mom helping serve meals. “It’s really interesting to see how simply having a genuine conversation with a person can make an impact, especially during a time of year when they may feel the loneliest.”


6. Do good as a group

Nicole, Customer Happiness Lead in Dublin

Trying something new can sometimes be a bit intimidating, so why not bring a friend or two along?

That’s exactly what Nicole, the Customer Happiness Lead in Dublin, plans to do this year. Along with a few co-workers, she signed up as an outreach volunteer with Inner City Helping Homeless to contribute to a winter clothing drive and pack Christmas boxes for the homeless.

“Doing something new or out of your comfort zone can always be a challenge at first,” says Nicole, “so it’s a massive plus getting together as a group to do something like this. The nervous feeling usually only lasts a little while, while the help you provide might make a difference for life. How rewarding is that?”

7. Give back through crowdfunding

Starting a crowdfunding fundraiser or donating to fundraisers that inspire you are a few more ways to touch someone’s life this holiday season.

GoFundMe offers a fundraising platform, which means more of the donations go to people who need them. From Giving Tuesday fundraisers to end-of-the-year fundraising drives, there are countless worthy causes on our site looking for support.

Even the simple act of sharing a fundraiser that matters to you on social media and encouraging others to donate can make a difference. In fact, each time you share a fundraiser on Facebook, you can help triple donations to the fundraiser.

Five holiday fundraisers that are spreading cheer

When people unite to champion a cause on GoFundMe, the results are often incredible. These are just a few of our favourite holiday fundraisers that are helping others in amazing ways.

1. NICU Holidays Thanks

Jessica and her family know what it’s like to spend the holidays in the hospital. After her twin boys were born at 26 weeks, she and her husband found themselves in the NICU for a solid four months. When Christmas Day rolled around, they ate hospital food and watched movies on an iPad from the hospital bed.

This year, Jessica wants to do something special for the families and staff who are in the hospital over the holidays. With a modest fundraising goal of $1,000, she plans to deliver baked goods, coffee, and a nice meal to patients and hospital staff.

woman with babies in NICU

2. Migrant Worker Annual Toy Drive

The youth ministry of Saint James Cathedral in Seattle wants to make this Christmas for a particular group of children one for the books. Every year, the youth ministry raises money to buy Christmas presents for over 400 children whose parents are nearby migrant workers. Along with toys, the group gifts each child a new winter coat or a jacket.

A steel building with a blue and white sign

3. Black Girl Ballerina Magic

The Tiny Diplomat (7 years old) and Little Miss Flint (11 years old) have joined forces this giving season with a new mission: send 180 Flint, Michigan kids to watch Misty Copeland on the big screen in the new Disney adaptation of The Nutcracker.

“She really shows us that black girl magic can do ANYTHING and representation matters,” the girls state on their GoFundMe.

And to sweeten the deal, the two want to raise enough money to give each child a book by Misty Copeland to encourage reading at home. They have until December 10th to raise $6,000 for their cause.

Two girls smiling and holding books

4. Holiday Book Drive with AOLV

The holidays can be especially tough for children with life-threatening illnesses. Wanting to bring an extra dose of holiday cheer to kids battling cancer, Jessica has teamed up with the nonprofit Angels of Las Vegas (AOLV) to host a book drive. Her holiday giving plans include giving out “book bundles” to a total of 75 children that contain stories and activity books tailored to their age.

A toddler in a red hat reading a book

5. Portrait Day for the Holidays

Montana State University photography students like to give back while letting their creativity shine. This year marks the 9th Annual Community Portrait Day, where students invite families into their studio for a family portrait that they might not otherwise be able to afford.

Students raised enough money in 2017 to photograph 45 families for the holidays. They hope to meet their goal of $1,000 this year so they can offer families the portraits as well as gifts and refreshments.

The back of a photographer as he takes a portrait

Ready to give back this holiday season?

Whether you want to buy a few hot meals for people or plan a toy drive—or anything in between—GoFundMe makes it easy to raise funds for the holidays and spark change. Sign up to create a GoFundMe for a cause that matters to you, or simply donate to an inspiring holiday fundraiser that’s doing some good in the world.

Start a holiday fundraiser


Special thanks to Gina H. for portraits of employees in San Diego.

Written by Jenna Davis

Asking for help is never easy, but it's my hope that our resources make it a bit easier and empower individuals and organizations to reach their fundraising goals. I believe we can create a better future through generosity and compassion—all it takes is a little bit of support from each of us.