12 Most Charitable Ways To Spend Black Friday
Ah, the holiday season. When does it start now? October 15th? It seems like the first Lexus commercials, where the car appears in the driveway with a giant bow around it, appear earlier and earlier every year.
But is this really what the holiday season is about?
Over the weekend, there was a story on CBS Sunday Morning about a small town in Georgia where the average household income *was* $80,000. Now, many of those same households are going to Atlanta Falcons charity Thanksgiving food hand-outs and are reliant on food stamps. In a world where so many are suffering and where the protective net around all of us seems to be rather thin, maybe this holiday season could focus on giving more than buying.
Just in time for the holidays, Paul and Peggy let me run with this slot for a Social Good post every week. With that in mind, here are 12 ideas for how you could do something a little different on Black Friday. Instead of buying your family lots of new electronics for Christmas, maybe one of these activities could take center stage.
1. Volunteer at a food bank
As you read this, my belly is very likely taking up half of my parents’ house, stuffed with stuffing, among other things. Maybe you are reading this while comfortably scratching your belly too. But there are a lot of people who can’t even approach the luxury of a Thanksgiving feast. A dinner that makes them full would be feast enough. Why not go volunteer at a food bank for a few hours on Friday to help those less fortunate get that full and thankful feeling?
2. Dedicate a percentage of what you’d normally spend on gifts to a charity
Increasingly, people are making gifts to charities and dedicating those gifts to loved ones. Does your uncle really need a 7th digital camera? They’re going out of style anyway. Why not dedicate a gift to the American Cancer Society in his name to dedicate his beating Prostate Cancer? Or maybe for that friend of yours you could donate some money to the World Wildlife Fund in honor of the pet she lost. Consider how much you were going to spend on “stuff” and see how much of that could be allocated somewhere else.
3. Have a food and crafting party
Are you into crafting? This could be a question for men and women. The holiday season is a great time to put on holiday movies and make things for charities – they need countless items, from toys that could be crafted for kids to socks that could be knit with love. If you have a lot of beginning knitters and crocheters in your life, teach them how to make 12×12 squares and donate those to Warm Up America. Provide food, your favorite holiday movies, and enjoy each others’ company while working on behalf of others.
4. Compete for that big ticket item on behalf of a charity
If you really love the deal-grabbing competition of Black Friday, maybe consider getting your family to go all in on getting a big ticket item that would make a local charity cry for joy. For example, maybe there’s a shelter for kids that would go crazy over a new TV and a Wii. Maybe a food bank could use a microwave or a new coffee pot. Check out wish lists and see what the needs are you – you might be surprised at what charities are going without and how easy it might be, with all of those deals, to give them exactly what they need.
5. Create gift baskets for our deployed soldiers
Few times are probably harder for a soldier than the holidays when they are far from home. To make that time a little easier, why not send them some items that will help them pass the time or even call home? Here is a great list of items for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. How many good deals could you get on this stuff on Black Friday?
6. Pool resources to make a soldier’s family’s wish come true
You know all of those holiday movies where a miracle happens beyond belief? You have a chance to make that a reality for a soldier and his or her family. Why not get your family and friends together on Friday and check out Operation Home Front, where soldiers and their families ask for help that they desperately need.
7. Make a Toys for Tots run
If you want to battle the fury of the crowds at places like Toys ‘R Us, why not bring the whole family along with a list of toys you want to donate to Toys for Tots? Those barrels are going to be everywhere, waiting to get filled. It’s an easy way to make a child’s holiday better.
8. Buy the unglamorous stuff that no one wants to donate
What are some of the items the homeless need most? Socks and underwear. You won’t see donations of this kind of stuff on Oprah. It’s not glamorous or fun. But boy is it needed. You could hit a store on Black Friday and really make people think you’re a scrooge when you go to the counter with nothing but socks and underwear, but you’ll know you’re making a difference!
9. Adopt a pet
Well this would make everyone in the family overjoyed I’m sure, but maybe, instead of putting that new Golden Retriever under the Christmas tree you could head on over to an animal shelter and adopt a pet who needs a forever home. Animals need help too!
10. Adopt a family
Look up your local chapter of the Salvation Army and see if they offer an “adopt a family” program. How this works depends on where you are but it’s a great way to make a big and personal impact on a family’s holiday season.
11. Visit Make a Wish and share your favorite stories with your social network
Feel like using social media on Black Friday? Why not go to Make A Wish, check out the stories, and write up a post that links to the stories that you think you and your network could help with, even if it’s just one. Write up a post, share it, and see what you and your social media community can do.
12. Start your own holiday cause
Of course, nothing is in the way of you starting your own holiday charity effort, whether it’s something very local or something you feel could change the world. Start up a hashtag on Twitter, write a post, start a Facebook causes page, and see what you can accomplish. Every little thing helps!
What other charitable ideas do you have for Black Friday? I’d love to hear them!