6 Ways to Volunteer Your Time at Christmas

Some of us can’t or don’t want to go home for the Christmas holidays, for a variety of reasons. These tips for volunteering with a charity or nonprofit organization will shed a fresh new light on old holiday traditions.

To give (and get) the most out of this holiday season, consider being a “Christmas tree shaker” or a toy driver. You could wear an elf hat, or don the whole Saint Nick get-up: beard, red velvet suit, belt, and belly full of jelly. Or, you could organize a toy drive at work, or wrap gifts at a mall. You could be a Toy Room Assistant – because Santa doesn’t have enough elves – or a photographer for a non-profit Christmas event. 

Giving your time during the holiday season can improve your physical and emotional health — make you grateful for all you have. And of course it’s a great way to help your community!

Another idea is working with an organization such as Operation Christmas Child. It’s the largest children’s Christmas ministry in the world; they collect donations of gift-filled shoeboxes for kids who don’t wake up and open gifts on Christmas morning. I wrote 15 Gifts and Tips for Your Operation Christmas Child Shoebox to help gift givers fill their shoeboxes with the most helpful gifts.

If you can’t volunteer time over the holiday season, think about buying gifts or cards from charities – the snow angel pictures will give you more info about Christmas greeting cards for charities. And, here are some tips for volunteer work at Christmas…

6 Tips for Giving Time During the Holiday Season

themes for holiday parties at christmas
Laurie at Christmas! Not volunteering.

You could spend four days at a Christmas camp with people with mental and physical disabilities, helping them with crafts, horse-drawn carriage rides, snacks, and dressy dinners and dances in the evenings. I loved volunteering at the Easter Seals Camp Horizon at Bragg Creek, Alberta over Christmas! Or you could volunteer halfway around the world, participating in Christmas parties for extremely poor and sick kids in Hanoi, Vietnam or doing the Santa Shuffle and Elf Walk in Toronto, Ontario.

Doing volunteer work at Christmas – or any time of the year – will increase self-esteem, reduce Christmas stress, negate feelings of worthlessness, and improve the immune system. Volunteering adds value and meaning to your life, especially over the holiday season when the materialism and superficiality can overwhelm even the most positive, cheerful soul.

Plus, volunteer work can be so fun

1. Do your research first – and consider involving your workplace. Check out the websites of specific non-profits that interest you, such as Big Brother/Big Sisters. Visit the Volunteer “Your City” or Charity Village websites; they have searchable databases of current opportunities for volunteer work at Christmas. Ask your boss or colleagues if your company has volunteered as a group, such as organizing a toy or food drive. Consider teaming up with a coworker and organizing a group volunteer effort at work. 

I’m a volunteer mentor through Big Sisters/Big Brothers. We’ve been together for 11 years, which means she’s no longer “little.” :-) Read 6 Reasons You’ll Love Volunteering as a Big Sister or Big Brother or even 5 Things I Learned From My Muslim Little Sister.

2. Plan volunteer work in advance. Calling ahead – preferably a few weeks – gives the organization a chance to work you into their schedule. I worked at a nonprofit organization in North Vancouver, and heaps of people would show up a day or two before Christmas and expect us to immediately put them to work. We, drowning in clothes, food, volunteers, paperwork, and Christmas decorations, couldn’t handle drop-in volunteers! Some nonprofit organizations need all the help they can get any time of the day, while others are overwhelmed and actually have to decline offers of time and goods.

3. Ask – and give – what the volunteer organization needs. Some charities accept any type of donation, while others are very specific in what they can use. If you can’t offer your own time or energy, consider making a financial donation or giving your employees some time off to volunteer their time at Christmas.

4. Find something you can – and like – to do. Maybe you’re the family’s expert Christmas gift wrapper, or you’ve created a spicy nutmeg eggnog cheesecake that your friends swoon over. Match your abilities and interests to the needs of the organization or event; if they don’t at first appear to have a spot for you, don’t be afraid to mention your talents. Perhaps they hadn’t realized how much the elves need a cheesecake break!

5. Or, challenge yourself with a new volunteer job. If you’re considering volunteer work at Christmas and you’re, say, a computer whiz, you may immediately consider programing the system that tracks donations and tax receipts. But…what about dressing up as Santa and handing out gifts for a change? Last year, I – a quiet person who dislikes noise, crowds, and being the centre of attention – accepted the role of Santa’s elf for a kids’ Christmas party. It was a stretch and I’d never ever do it again, but…it sure was interesting!

6. Remember that volunteering can change your life!  If, for instance, you’re single and have trouble connecting with people, volunteer work at Christmas can help you expand your circle of friends. And, it’s the perfect opportunity to reach out to acquaintances who you’d like to know better. Take a risk and invite someone to join you in your volunteering adventure….you never know what could happen next!

Next year I hope to spend Christmas overseas. In preparation, I wrote Volunteer Work in India – How to Make It Amazing.

If you feel lonely and sad, read 7 Secrets for Surviving a Lonely Christmas.

What do you think? Your thoughts on doing volunteer work at Christmas are welcome below…


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3 thoughts on “6 Ways to Volunteer Your Time at Christmas”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Kathy,

    That’s great, that you and your kids might volunteer over the Christmas holidays! It’s amazing how happier and more grateful we feel when we volunteer with people less fortunate.

    Volunteer possibilities depend on where you live. Some cities have gift wrapping, food banks, handing out sandwiches and hot chocolate, and stuff like that — but it depends on where you live.

    My first suggestion is to Google “Volunteer [your city]” and see what possibilities are listed. Another good place to find opportunities is your city’s newspaper — either online or print. Also, I encourage you to call a few churches (Salvation Army), nonprofit organizations (such as Big Sisters), and even their school for info about where to volunteer in your city.

    I hope this helps. Let me know what you end up doing!

    Happy Holidays,

  2. Hi, I’m looking for a volunteer opportunity for my kids over the christmas holidays. My first thought was a soup kitchen type place but I understand you need a food-safe course and criminal record check. My kids are 9 and 11. Any ideas?