Skip To Content

    12 Simple Ways To Help Those In Need This Holiday Season

    From funding a year of books for a child to contributing to Ferguson's Youth Tech Program, there's a way to make a genuine difference in someone's life this month.

    1. Fund a year of books for a child via Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.


    With your donation, the Imagination Library provides a book a month to preschool children, ensuring that books will be a constant in disadvantaged kids' lives. Also a great reminder that Dolly Parton is awesome.

    2. Donate to your local shelter for victims of domestic violence.

    At the YWCA of Spokane, near where I grew up, a little money goes a long way. You can help with school supplies for children's services, living necessities for those who've just arrived at the shelter, and semi-formal clothes to prepare women for the workplace. Your local shelter will have similar needs.

    3. Contribute to one of GiveWell's top four charities.


    GiveWell uses a rigorous review process to figure out which charities have the most cost-effective and underfunded programs serving the global poor.

    This year, it's the Against Malaria Foundation (providing direct cash transfers to those in need), Give Directly, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (which helps treat parasite infections), and Deworm the World Initiative.

    All use small amounts of money to make substantive, life-altering changes.

    4. Donate books or money to a Books-to-Prisoner Program.


    Just $3 allows Books-to-Prisoners to send a book. Read about specific book requests — and the myriad ways that books can affect a prisoner's life — here.

    5. Contribute to Ferguson's Youth Tech Program.

    With programs in graphic design and web development, Hands Up United works "to close the digital divide and address the issues of economic equality." Donate at the organization's GoFundMe Page, which is currently working toward a $10,000 goal.

    You can also donate to Ferguson's Library, which has stayed open as a community resource and meeting space even as public schools have closed in the wake of protests. Read an excellent interview with Ferguson's public library director on the needs his library fulfills here.

    6. Donate to the Diaper Bank Network.


    Diapers are one of the most essential and overlooked items for families in need. One in three families struggles to buy diapers, and a steady supply of diapers is necessary for children to enter early child education programs, which make those kids 2.5 times more likely to go on to higher education. You can help by donating money, printing coupons, or donating Huggies Reward Points.

    7. Give $25 to Janet Mock's Trans Book Drive...

    View this video on YouTube

    ... and help fulfill 200 trans prisoners' book requests.

    8. Fund a sustainable engineering project via Engineers Without Borders.


    Engineers Without Borders collaborates with communities in 39 countries to create water, infrastructure, agriculture, and dozens of other engineering projects. If you donate before Dec. 31, your dollar will be matched by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.

    9. Contribute to local and grassroots organizations fighting Ebola in Liberia.

    BuzzFeed News' Jina Moore, who's been reporting in Liberia throughout the Ebola crisis, has compiled a list of local aid organizations working closely with those affected by the crisis.

    10. Help an Incarcerated Mother Give a Christmas Gift to Her Children.


    Moms United and Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers have created an Amazon list filled with toys, art supplies, and other items under $30. Incarcerated moms can then choose from those toys and send them to their children.

    11. Donate dog or cat food (or money!) to your local animal shelter.

    Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue, for example, helps rescue dogs from high-kill shelters and place them in forever homes. You can find your local shelter here.

    12. Instead of dumping your old stuff at a homeless shelter, call ahead and see what they need.


    A shelter like Glide, which serves the San Francisco homeless community, serves three meals a day and provides health and wellness services to thousands every year. All shelters are constantly in need of volunteers, and monetary donations are always welcome, but you can also call and see what's needed most.

    Find your local shelter here.

    Want to be the first to see product recommendations, style hacks, and beauty trends? Sign up for our As/Is newsletter!

    Newsletter signup form