Creative ways to give back to your community

Mar 31, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. ET

Be inspired to spread some goodness within your own community. It’s easy! Here are a few creative ways to help, using resources you most likely already have.

Community outreach
Photo credit: Steve Debenport / E+ / Getty images

Organize a clothing sale

Your family’s closets are probably jam-packed with items that no longer fit, or that they don't like or need, and the same goes for many of your neighbors. Coordinate a community clothing sale by contacting neighbors to participate. Advertise the date and time on Craigslist and local listing sites. Encourage your neighbors to donate 50 percent of their proceeds to a predetermined local charity and make the donation on behalf of the entire neighborhood.

Grow a community garden

If you have a green thumb, gather your fellow greenies and start a community garden. recommends the following steps to get started:

  1. Organize a meeting of interested neighbors and form a planning committee.
  2. Identify your resources and choose a location.
  3. Approach a sponsor to help with expenses.
  4. Prepare and develop the garden site.
  5. Keep community members active and in the loop by creating an e-newsletter, installing a rainproof bulletin board in the garden and hosting regular celebrations.

Host a charitable barbecue

Gather friends and family for a barbecue and invite everyone to bring a new friend. Offer all guests the opportunity to make a donation to a local charity of your choice. Set out a donation jar where guests can donate cash or checks, and include a sign-up sheet where they can write their name and donated amount. Partygoers will enjoy the food and drink, and have the chance to make new friends, all while making a difference.

Share your skills

Give back to your community by donating the skills you already possess. Do you have a knack for writing? Volunteer at a career services organization to assist job seekers with resume writing. Enjoy working with children? Donate your time by mentoring at your local YMCA or after-school program. Addicted to social media? Help promote awareness of a local charity by creating a Facebook page for them or running their existing page.

Help animals in need of a home

Shelters and rescues are always in need of foster homes to host an adoptable animal, but not everyone has the time or space for another pet. Don't let yourself off the hook — volunteer opportunities don’t end there. Become a shelter pet teacher and help pets learn to sit, stay and walk calmly on a leash to increase their chances of adoption. Take photos of adoptable pets and post them to your Facebook account or on a public bulletin board at work… you might just be the reason a friend or coworker connects with their next beloved pet.

For more ideas, the ASPCA shares 10 easy ways to help your local shelter >>

Volunteer on the clock

Need a break from work? Encourage your employer to sponsor a local event or to start a volunteer program that rewards employees for volunteering. Suggest that your employer offer employees the opportunity to volunteer during work hours twice a year. Your company may enjoy local media coverage publicizing your team’s hard work, and you and your coworkers will get a much-needed break from your cubicles as you set out to make a difference.

Make an extra plate

Cook enough dinner for one extra adult each week and take a plate over to an elderly neighbor. Communities with camaraderie among neighbors are safer, friendlier and enjoy lower crime rates.

Need more ideas? is a powerful tool to find immediate opportunities in your area. Simply select your area of interest (for example, animals, women's crisis shelters, the environment, seniors, sports and recreation) and the site generates a list of opportunities right in your area. You can sign up on the spot — how easy is that?

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