The Giving Spirit: Donate Your Time or Services this Holiday

The holidays are a time for giving. I remember when, during my days as an office worker, the Unicef box would travel between cubicles, or if the organization was larger, sometimes management would ask that a portion of your paycheck go to such-and-such charity.

When you’re working alone from home, opportunities to give back aren’t presented as often or as easily as they are in an office work environment. Money might also be tight, as it always is around the holidays, but especially with the effects of the down economy still making themselves felt so thoroughly in all of our lives. Luckily, you can always donate your time and effort, which in many cases doesn’t cost you anything, besides a little leisure time.

Pro Bono Work

Often, charitable or publicly funded organizations won’t be able to offer compensation for things like graphics work, web site design, or content editing and production. They’ll post calls for volunteer “bids” on these types of jobs on sites like (for Canadians) and (for those in the U.S.). Note that these can still be competitive calls for proposals, so often you’ll have to work as hard as you would with a pay gig, but isn’t that the point, anyway?

If you can’t find anything up your alley using sites like those I just mentioned, it’s never a bad idea to directly solicit organizations yourself. Don’t treat it casually just because you’re being generous, though. Just because a nonprofit organization doesn’t have the means to award lucrative contracts doesn’t mean they’re interested in shoddy work. Present yourself professionally, with a brief cover letter and links to any relevant work and/or your online portfolio, if you have one.

Party While You Give

Holiday season means holiday parties. If you’re at all involved in Twitter, and pay attention to tweeters in your area, you’ve probably seen at least a few people advertising local events and parties. In many cases (though by all means, check thoroughly before you make any purchases) the proceeds or a portion of the proceeds from the sale of tickets for these events goes to a charitable organization.

For example, here in Toronto there’s “Heart for the Holidays,” a party organized by #GenYTO, a local Twitter user group. Proceeds go to Heart House Hospice, which is an organization that helps families with terminally ill members in their time of greatest need. #HoHoTO is another similar event here, with proceeds from ticket sales going to the Daily Bread food bank.

Spread the Word

If you work online, or even if you’re just interested in the idea, chances are you’re at least a little social media savvy. The holidays are a perfect time to make use of that savvy to spread more than just viral links about cats being impossibly cute or speculative theories about Tiger Woods’ recent short car trip.

You might not be able to make any of the charitable parties or functions going on in your neck of the woods yourself, but you can still let others know about it to help boost ticket sales. If even one of your Twitter or Facebook friends buys a ticket because of your broadcast, you’ve helped.

Likewise with calls for proposals for pro bono work that you either don’t have time for, or don’t have the right skill set to deliver yourself, you can either contact people you think might be interested directly, or just pass info along via your various social networks in the hope of getting a nibble from some interested party.

‘Tis the Season

Of course, these tips are applicable year round. Charitable events happen throughout the year, nonprofit organizations are always looking for help with work they can’t source internally and can’t afford to contract out, and using social media to spread the news about good causes is never a bad idea. That said, there’s also no denying that many of us are probably feeling at our most giving around the holidays, and there’s nothing wrong with indulging that urge, however you want to go about it. Hopefully if you were feeling at a loss regarding your charitable intentions, the above suggestions might help.

Are you planning on giving (in some way) to charitable causes this holiday season?