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You’ve got the itch to give back to your community, make a difference, and help people. That’s awesome. High five! We need more people like you.
So how exactly do you do that? It can be a bit overwhelming. There is so much you could do — so many issues in need of attention, so many worthy causes, so many organizations working to drive change. What should you do? How do you choose?
Here are six simple ways you can make a difference in your community.
1. Find an issue or cause that excites you: Think about why you want to give back. Let your motivation be your guide, leading you to the best way for you to give back. Maybe you want to take action and make progress on an issue, like food security, or maybe it’s more that you want to contribute to the community you love. Figuring out the issue or cause that really fires you up is the first step to action. Canada Helps has a great tool that can help you find organizations doing work close to your heart.
Whatever it is for you. Start there — with your passion — and then find the people who share it and who work on it each and every day.
2. Donate what you can, or help raise money
: A simple and very effective way to help is donate what you can to an organization. Make a one-time donation, or become a monthly donor – monthly donations ensure nonprofits have a steady flow of funds with which to run programs that people depend on.
You don’t have to write a big cheque — even $5 per month (aka one cup of coffee) can make a difference.
You can also help an organization raise money by rallying your friends and family to the cause on social media. One way you can do this is by adding a donation button to a Facebook post — a new functionality Facebook launched in Canada last year that allows people to raise money for nonprofits via their posts.
3. Give your time and volunteer: Volunteer opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. You can do everything from prepping community meals to helping out on a fundraising committee to serving as a board member. Volunteer Canada has a helpful quiz that can help you figure out your interests and the skills and expertise you have to offer.
It’s important to find the right volunteer opportunity for you — one that matches your skills and experience and the time you can commit. Think about why you want to volunteer: to learn new skills, use skills you have, give back? How much time can you give?
Once you have a sense of how you’d like to volunteer, do some research into what opportunities are available at your favourite nonprofits. You can also find opportunities on Charity Village.
If you’d like to get involved with Commnity Food Centres Canada or your local Community Food Centre, check out our volunteer pages here.
4. Raise your voice
: Change happens when people raise their voice and speak out.
All you have to do is look at the power of the #MeToo movement to see what can happen people add their voice, their stories, and amplify the voices and stories of others.
“I raise up my voice-not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard...we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”
― Malala Yousafzai
Find the conversations happening online about the issues you care about. Join them. Boost the voices and messages there. Think about how you can help empower people with lived experience to speak for themselves. Keep an eye out for hashtag campaigns.
For example, if you’re passionate about ending poverty, you can follow the news and conversations on the #EndPoverty and #RaisetheRates hashtags on social media, amplifying and adding to it.
5. Get political: Speak truth to power. More often than not, the people who can actually make the changes you want to see are in government.
The most important thing you can do is get out and vote when there’s an election or by-election.
With a federal election on the horizon (Election Day is Oct. 21, 2019), make sure you’re registered to vote and help people in your community register to vote.
But action shouldn't only happen at election time.
Find out which level of government has jurisdiction for the issue you care about and write to your local representative — your Member of Parliament, Member of Provincial Parliament or Member of the Legislative Assembly — and ask them to act.
You can find your MP and their contact info here and your provincial or territorial representative here: Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Yukon. You can also write to the premier of your province or territory and to the prime minister, of course.
If you care about food and poverty, write to your federal MP and the prime minister about the new Poverty Reduction Strategy or the need for restrictions to junk food marketing to kids.
You can also add your name to petitions on the issues you care about. The Government of Canada has an e-petitions tool where you can view and sign petitions to the government by topic. Of course, you can find petitions at Care2, Change.org, too.
6. Shop with purpose: Increasingly, people are voting with their dollars and giving their money to companies with a social conscience — whether it’s purchasing food from local farmers or clothing from companies that are open and transparent about the where, how, and who of their manufacturing process or supporting companies who treat employees well, e.g. pay them a fair wage.
There are some companies in Ontario, for example, who decided to raise their minimum wage to $15/hour on Jan. 1 even though they didn’t have to following the change in government last June. Next time you need groceries, a cup of coffee or some snacks, you can choose to support companies like these.
Another option is to support companies that make a donation of some kind with every purchase, like Mad Radish, who donates one serving of fresh fruit and vegetables to a low-income community for each order placed in their app.