33 Charitable Opportunities to Participate in This Holiday Season

'Tis the season for giving back.

33 Charitable Opportunities to Participate in This Holiday Season

The world is full of so many people in need, and few times of year is that more apparent than during the holiday season. For every smiling family curled up around a warm fireplace and a robust pile of presents, there’s another family that has no fire, no gifts, and sometimes even no family (extended or immediate) at all.

If you find yourself in a place where you’re able to do so, consider giving back this holiday season. Even the smallest donation—whether financial or material—is enough to raise the spirits of someone whose spirits might need raising. And if you don’t know where to start, well, we’ve compiled 33 charitable organizations that give back in major ways throughout the holiday season. So read on, and see if any speak to you. After all, ’tis the season for giving. And for more amazing give-back opportunities, learn about the 17 Quirkiest Charities That Give Back in Creative Ways.

Toys for Tots

teddy bear and legos

For more information: toysfortots.org

Every child deserves a gift this holiday season, and this charity strives to make that possible. You can donate money online with a credit card (which then goes toward toys for, well, tots), or you can donate a toy at one of the countless toy drop locations around the country. You can also work with the org to host a Toys for Tots event yourself, where you can collect toys from friends, coworkers, and neighbors for less fortunate children. And for more ways to give back, Take the 30-Minute Challenge: Here’s What You Can Do to Help Those With Cancer.

Operation Christmas Child

Colored Pens, 40s

For more information: samaritanspurse.org

If you want to provide help for children internationally, this organization provides shoe boxes full of toys, school supplies, hygiene items, and notes of encouragement to children in need all around the world. Youth in some of the hardest-to-reach countries are provided with a shoebox gift. The organization even allows you to pack personalized shoe boxes online year-round. But heads up: National Collection Week is coming up. It runs from November 12th through the 19th.

Project Linus

throw blanket gift ideas

For more information: projectlinus.org

Project Linus was named after the Peanuts character who wouldn’t go anywhere without his blanket. By making a blanket or donating money, you’ll be able to provide a sense of warmth and security—a practical Christmas gift—to a less fortunate child this winter season. If you’re curious about raw numbers, the organization has donated about 350 blankets every month for the past two decades.


cute puppy dog up for adoption, shelter dog facts

For more information: aspca.org

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has worked to put an end to the abuse and neglect of animals for more than 150 years. The organization is a national leader in rescuing animals, providing them with medical care, and helping them find homes. By adopting a pet this holiday season, you can give an animal in need a loving home and surprise your family with a brand new (totally lovable) family member. And for more reasons to adopt instead of going to a breeder, learn about these 15 Amazing Benefits of Adopting a Pet.

Angel Tree

Christmas Presents Under a Tree Pay it Forward Stories

For more information: prisonfellowship.org

This charity provides Christmas presents to children who have parents in prison. It’s a little way to bring some light to an oft-overlooked population. And if you’re looking to pick up presents for children, know that This Is the Best Time to Shop for Christmas Gifts.

New York Road Runners

lose 10 pounds

For more information: nyrr.org

Run for a good cause this holiday season. There are different races all around the country to participate in, but the NYRR Jingle Bell Jog 5k offers runners the opportunity to raise money for various charities. This is a great way to give back while also having fun—and getting a great workout in.

Clean Cooking Alliance

Gas range

For more information: cleanstoves.org

No amount of food means a thing if there’s no way to safely cook said food. Enter: the Clean Cooking Alliance, an org that has been working to provide accessible clean cooking conditions to families all over the world since 2010. According to their mission statement, they support, “The development, sale, distribution, and consistent use of clean cooking solutions that transform lives by improving health, protecting the environment, creating jobs and income opportunities, and helping consumers save time and money.” 

Be an Elf

For more information: beanelf.org

You can make a child’s Christmas by “answering” their letter to Santa. Select USPS postal branches keep letters that kids write to Santa in a room so that volunteers can read the letters and buy Christmas presents for them. Generally, letters written by underprivileged kids are usually chosen. You can find a participating postal branch near you on the org’s website. 

Child’s Play

For more information: childsplaycharity.org

It’s always sad when sick children have to spend time in the hospital, but it’s especially sad when they can’t spend Christmas at home surrounded by loved ones. Child’s Play works to provide children in pediatric hospitals essential, fun distractions in the form of new video game consoles and games.

Ronald McDonald House

Broken teddy bears

For more information: rmhc.org

The Ronald McDonald House provides housing for families of children receiving treatment in nearby hospitals. You can make a sick child and their family’s Christmas season better by donating board games, puzzles, stuffed animals, and other toys to this organization. You can also volunteer your time to cook families a meal at one of the many Ronald McDonald House locations around the country.

Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christmas Eve traditions

For more information: make-a-wish.org

The Make-A-Wish Foundation raises money to grant wishes for critically ill children. By donating online, or starting your own fundraiser, you can help brighten a sick child’s Christmas by making sure they’re able to spend it with their family (it costs a lot to leave the hospital in critical condition), or see that their hospital room is cheerily decorated for the holidays. Instead of asking for gifts this year, you can ask that your loved ones donate to this foundation instead.

Christmas Spirit Foundation


For more information: christmasspiritfoundation.org

You can support the armed forces in their holiday celebrations by donating to the Christmas Spirit Foundation. This organization provides free, farm-grown Christmas trees to members of the United States Armed Forces and their families.

Family Giving Tree

jealous wife

For more information: familygivingtree.org

Family Giving Tree is hosting a holiday wish drive to provide children, families, and seniors from low-income households in the San Francisco Bay Area with gifts. Family Giving Tree says, “To fulfill the exact holiday gift wish of a child, adult or senior in need may not seem like much, but for someone who may not otherwise receive a gift, it’s everything. That single, specially chosen gift lets them know that someone in the community is thinking of them.”

Pay Away the Layaway

handing the cashier a credit card

For more information: payawaythelayaway.org

This is a non-profit organization that helps to pay off layaway balances for families in need. By donating, you can pay off balances on gifts for children—everything from games, toys, and books to backpacks, clothes, and coats. What better way to give back this holiday season than by helping those in need provide their families with the things they need, and Christmas gifts for a wonderful holiday season?

One Simple Wish

christmas decor

For more information: onesimplewish.org

Orphans are one group of children that oftentimes don’t receive Christmas presents. (Remember: Many of these kids have been impacted by abuse, neglect, or trauma.) This charity allows you to connect with children in the foster care system and find out what gifts they’re asking for. That way, you’ll know with 100 percent certainty that you buy a gift the kid will love.

Operation Christmas Spirit

Soldier in fatigues

For more information: operationhelpahero.org

Operation Christmas Spirit allows volunteers to “adopt” a military family for the holiday season. Of course, it’s not a literal adoption. You’ll provide Christmas gifts for the kids in the family, and a family gift or gift card to the whole family to help them out.

Red Rover

Dog sitting in the dirt

For more information: redrover.org

If you want to give back this holiday season, consider donating to a charity in a friend’s name. It’s a thoughtful gift for multiple parties: your friend, and whoever receives the material benefits. Red Rover is the perfect choice for all of the animal lovers in your life; your donation will help animals in immediate crisis.

Harlem Children’s Zone

Kid, school, relationship, fall

For more information: hcz.org

To help children and families living in poverty this holiday season, you can donate to Harlem Children’s Zone. By donating to Harlem Children’s Zone, you support the organization’s goal to provide educational and extracurricular programs that will ultimately help children complete high school and graduate college.

St. Jude

Person Opening Card Pay it Forward Stories

For more information: stjude.org

St. Jude makes it easy for you to brighten a child’s Christmas morning, by allowing you to purchase a holiday card online that they’ll love. Holiday cards with words of encouragement make children know that people are thinking of them and are hoping that they get better.

Afghans for Afghans

crafting hobby

For more information: afghansforafghans.org

The Afghans for Afghans project is responsible for sending hand-knit and crocheted blankets, sweaters, vests, hats, mittens, and socks to people of Afghanistan who are in need of such knitwear. Though you may imagine Afghanistan to be a dry, arid country, temperatures in Kabul, the capital, can drop as low as 19º Fahrenheit in the depths of winter.

Covenant House

Paying it Forward Stories

For more information: covenanthouse.org

With Covenant House, you can provide the gift of shelter for a homeless youth. It’s a fact: Children will seek shelter on the streets this Christmas. But with the help of donations, you can help put roofs over heads. Covenant House provides safe housing for almost 2,000 kids every single night.

Action Aid

Christmas cards are a bad tradition

For more information: actionaid.org

Everyone loves a nice Christmas card, so why not buy some that give back? When you purchase Christmas cards for your loved ones from Action Aid, money is donated to people in need all around the world.

Direct Relief

Women Typing Life Easier

For more information: directrelief.org

Direct Relief focuses on the support of people living in poverty. You can donate online, donate monthly, or set up a fundraiser. An easy way to raise money and make a difference is by posting a fundraiser on Facebook. Remind your friends about the season of giving and inspire them to donate to your fundraiser. Who knows: maybe you’ll go viral!

Operation Blessing

gift boxes against a red background

For more information: ob.org

As the holiday season approaches, remember that there are towns—like Port St. Joe, Florida, and Wilmington, North Carolina—that experienced natural disasters this year and are still recovering. You can help make sure their Christmas festivities are better by donating with Operation Blessing’s website.

Feeding America

serving food at a soup kitchen

For more information: feedingamerica.org

It’s a charitable opportunity as old as time: Volunteer at a local food bank this holiday season. Feeding America has locations all over the United States, so find a food bank near you and serve others.

Operation Holiday Joy

Christmas Eve traditions

For more information: asymca.org

This organization has raised $1.5 million for military families, and has given more than 320,000 toys and 25,000 blankets to families in need. You can donate online to support military members and their families, and to make sure they enjoy the Christmas season.

Wrapping paper rolls

For more information: sharedhope.org

Wrap presents for Shared Hope International this year. This organization works to prevent sex trafficking and restore victims of sex slavery by training first responders to identify sex trafficking warning signs and by raising awareness about child sex slavery in communities through campaigns. You can support Shared Hope International and their mission by wrapping Christmas presents for their donors and supporters. Sign up at volunteermatch.org.


woman at computer Life Easier

For more information: santacan.org

SantaCAN is an online gift registry for Los Angeles children who are in the foster care system. The website allows you to see exactly what specific kids want for Christmas so that you can purchase something, mail it, and make their whole day.

Feed My Starving Children

30 compliments

For more information: charity.org

Give the gift of food and nourishment this holiday season by donating to Feed My Starving Children. According to this organization, “Volunteers hand-pack scientifically formulated meals for undernourished children.” You can also donate in a loved one’s name as a Christmas gift.

The Holiday Project

grandparents with grandkids

For more information: holidayproject.info

This is a national organization that organizes visits to people in nursing homes. The Gardens of Monroe nursing home, in Monroe, New Jersey, is hosting a visit this Christmas day, so you can spend time with people who don’t have family to spend the season with. You can find a nursing home in your area on The Holiday Project website.

Alternative Gifts International

Buying presents

For more information: alternativegifts.org

This is a non-profit organization that works for the support of humanitarian and environmental causes. Alternative Gifts International allows donors to designate gifts through selected agencies in the name of their relatives, friends, and associates. This is a great opportunity to provide a charitable gift this holiday season.

Seattle Children’s Hospital Amazon Wishlist

Amazon logo Image via Wikimedia Commons

For more information: seattlechildrens.org

The Seattle Children’s Hospital partnered with Amazon to create a wish list for ill children. Their current greatest needs are infant flannel blankets and items for patients ages 8 to 12. No child wants to wake up in a hospital on Christmas, but your gift could help improve their day and give them the hope and comfort they need.

Catholic Charities

Christmas Eve traditions

For more information: catholiccharitiessf.org

Catholic Charities San Francisco hosts many Christmas charitable events every year. This year they have an opportunity to volunteer at a Christmas Eve party for formerly homeless HIV/AIDS patients. Volunteers prep food and stuff stockings. Other holiday volunteer opportunities include helping with Christmas dinner for HIV/AIDS patients and making wreathes for patients. And for more ways to get through the Thanksgiving-to-New-Year’s stretch, this is The Best Thing to Do When You’re Feeling Sad This Holiday Season.

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