"When we give, we have an impact on someone else,” says Bright Dickson, an expert on positive psychology and co-host of the “Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian” podcast. “Giving reminds us that our actions matter and that we matter. Sometimes we need those reminders—especially when we feel like there is little that we can control. When we give, our brains release feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin. It gives us a little mood boost.”1
Giving back can have a positive impact on your finances, too, because it helps you budget for and focus your spending on what truly matters.
Read more: Giving is good for you, but it needs a budget
In the face of the pandemic, you can still find ways to give back and bring relief to individuals and communities—be it locally or from afar. While giving back with your money is important for you and your community, giving without donating money can be beneficial in other ways. You can develop new, meaningful relationships and find solutions to problems affecting society, ultimately giving you a better connection with your community.
Here are five ways to give back during COVID-19 safely and without spending any money.
1. Give your time and talents
Everyone has something to offer—and most nonprofits already know how you can safely help. Organizations are constantly adapting to the changing conditions surrounding COVID-19.
Read more: 1.5 million meals: How Virginia’s food banks are feeding families safely
Before you dive into volunteering, remember that your time is one of your most valuable resources.
“The actual amount of time you give is less important than giving enough to constitute a real sacrifice,” says Brian Ford, an expert on financial wellness and co-host of the “Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian” podcast.
Carefully consider how much time you’d like to give. From there, if you’re not sure where to volunteer, there are a number of websites that can connect you with an opportunity, like volunteermatch.com or catchafire.org.
When searching for ways to give back during COVID-19, select a cause that is important to you, like senior care, animals, youth, housing, or arts and culture. You can also search based on your skills—finance, computers, music, sports, and literacy, to name a few. From there, you can choose opportunities based on the amount of time you want to commit, from a few hours to a few weeks. Finally, you can choose to help virtually or in person.
2. Donate your things (and declutter in the process)
Decluttering feels good. Studies show that it can reduce depression and improve focus.2 The minimalist movement continues to grow in popularity, and all of the time at home is bringing many of us face to face with our excess. Meanwhile, many nonprofits have made it incredibly convenient to donate items—including clothes, books, electronics, bikes, furniture, office and art supplies, and even your car.
Dress for Success is an organization that accepts women’s business attire, including shoes, jewelry, and separates—basically anything you would wear to a job interview. Your donations could help give women confidence to enter or re-enter the workforce and land jobs that lead to greater economic success, and ultimately change lives.
3. Write a letter
The pandemic has compounded the isolation that vulnerable populations already felt. With everything going digital, a written letter can hold even more meaning and be one of the best ways to give back during COVID-19. Seniors, kids, cancer patients, complete strangers—the Write_On Campaign shares several ways for you to send a handwritten note to those in need of some love and support.
Simple caring messages have been proven to reduce suicide attempts by as much as half.3 And studies show that the benefits of a handwritten note are not just for the receiver, but also the sender.4 It’s a creative expression and human connection, thanks to snail mail.
4. Give blood while the need is high
Every two seconds in the U.S., someone needs blood.5 The Red Cross holds thousands of blood drives each year. And you can give blood up to six times a year, saving up to three lives with each donation. During the pandemic, demand is up, but supply of blood is down by about 30%, making donations even more important now.6
The Red Cross tests every donation for the virus. But even if a donation tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies, it may now help current coronavirus patients in need of convalescent plasma transfusions.7 Your blood donation helps patients young and old, accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those battling cancer. You can find a blood drive in your area here.
5. Perform acts of kindness for those around you
Giving back to those around you feels good because you can see the impact you are having on your community. You can see the smile it brings. These small but noticeable ways to give back during COVID-19 create strong social bonds and make your community a better place to live. So shovel your neighbor’s driveway. Mow someone’s lawn. If you’re going to the store, offer to grab groceries for someone who’s high risk. Or bake something for the neighbors who just moved in.
“This allows you to focus on something or someone other than yourself. As you shift your attention away from your own needs and desires, you become aware that you are a part of something much larger than any one person,” Ford says. “You realize that you are a member of a vast human family.”