The Giving Tuesday idea is based on radical generosity. It started back in 2012 and currently operates across six continents and involves millions of people working together to make their communities better. Here are 10 great virtual Giving Tuesday ideas that are perfect for students all across the country. I encourage you to give it a try this year and consider making it an annual activity.
Giving Tuesday always falls on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This is almost perfect timing for students since most have time off from school during the week of Thanksgiving. I say almost perfect because Giving Tuesday is typically a school day. However, students can actually volunteer during the Thanksgiving break for the Giving Tuesday event.
Students can absolutely be a part of the Giving Tuesday movement that make changes for a better world.
“Helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person.”– Unknown
Great Virtual Giving Tuesday Ideas for Students
1. Decorate Lunch Bags for Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels is a nationwide organization that has more than 5,000 local community based programs across the country. These organizations exist to deliver food to the more than 9 million senior citizens that struggle with hunger in America. In fact, hundreds of millions of meals are delivered each year. Why not brighten a senior’s day by decorating the lunch bags that they receive.
To find a local Meals on Wheels organization, click here. They might not advertise they accept decorated lunch bags, but I know for a fact some local Meals on Wheels organization love to receive them. Contact your local organization first and ask if they would accept decorated lunch bags. If your local MOW does not accept decorated bags, check out the Meals on Wheels in Minneapolis.
2. Host a Drive to Stock a Local Food Pantry
As we draw near to Thanksgiving, food pantries need more food. Many pantries have special events for Thanksgiving. In fact, according to Feeding America, “in 2022, 49 million people turned to food banks and community programs for help putting food on the table.”
Get your friends on a group text and start your drive there. Create a flyer in Canva with a list of the items needed and then text it to all of your friends and family. Maybe even host a movie night at your house where everyone needs to bring 5 items off the list. You could even give the flyer to some neighbors and see if you can get any additional items from the people that live near you.
Lastly, make your delivery to your local food pantry. The best website to find a food pantry near you is called Feeding America. The link will take you directly to their page where you can find a local food bank / pantry.
3. Make Paracord Lanyards for Operation Gratitude
Another great virtual Giving Tuesday idea for students is to make paracord lanyards for Operation Gratitude. These lanyards are include in every care package that is sent from Operation Gratitude. In the last 20 years (2003 to 2023), they have shipped 3.5 million care packages. It’s so easy to make one and it takes about 5 minutes to make just one. Once you get the hang of it, you can easily make them while binge-watching your Netflix show.
All you need is the following 5 items:
- 550 paracord, in a color that would blend with a military uniform
- Candle or lighter
- Instructions from Operation Gratitude
Check out this YouTube video from Operation Gratitude to see exactly how to make the lanyards.
I recommend buying the paracord from either eBay or Amazon in at least 100 ft sections and cutting it yourself. 100 ft of 550 paracord typically will cost anywhere from $9 -$11. Each lanyard is made with 5 feet of cord, so you can make 20 lanyards with 100ft of paracord.
Operation Gratitude will certify your community service hours. For every 5 paracord lanyards, you will receive 1 community service hour. So 100ft of paracord should earn you 4 community service hours, even though I am confident it won’t take you that long. Operation Gratitude says normal turnaround for community service hours can be 2-4 weeks, so plan ahead!
4. Host a Diaper Drive
This one is similar to the food pantry drive, except of course with diapers. I recommend finding a local organization by just doing a Google search. If you are in a relatively big city or near a big city, I would bet there is an organization near you. Another option is to check out the National Diaper Bank Network, where you will find links to organizations in your state. This National Bank Network serves close to 280,000 children each month!
Just create a group text with your friends and tell them about your diaper drive. I would see if you could get your parents involved with them maybe asking their friends or co-workers. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Don’t forget to ask the neighbors you know as well. For this idea, you could again use Canva to create a graphic to include in your texts.
To collect the diapers, you could put a plastic bin by your front door where people could drop them off. Make sure the bin has a lit to protect it from the elements. You might also put a label on the bin, so people know for sure that they are putting the diapers in the right spot.
5. Make Kindness Rocks
The Kindness Rocks Project mission is “one message at just the right moment can change someone’s entire day, outlook, life.”
I love this idea for a “night in” with a group a friends. Invite your friends over for a rock painting event while watching a movie or binge streaming a favorite tv show. To get ideas on what to paint, go to The Kindness Rocks Project website and you will find tons of ideas or just search “kindness rocks” on Instagram.
You can 30 get flat river rocks for about $12-15 on Amazon. Make sure you check the size of the rocks before you buy. At first glance some of the options on Amazon seem like a great deal, but the rocks are so small they would be hard to paint.
To find a great location to place the rocks, search for a Kindness Rock Facebook Group in your area. That group can help give you ideas on places to hide your creations.
Remember to use eco-friendly paint when decorating your rocks. One unique feature of this project is that they have a philosophy of leaving no trace. Visit Leave No Trace to see how you can participate in this project, while limiting the impact to the environment.
6. Write Letters
Writing cards or letters is such a great way to be creative and brighten someone’s day at the same time.
If you love to write, color, or use stickers, this idea might be right up your alley! This is a relatively inexpensive idea, especially if you have some markers or stickers lying around your home. If you don’t have stickers or markers, just a pen and paper will do. Of course, you don’t have to decorate your handwritten note; a kind sentiment is enough.
Who wants written cards or letters? There are several non-profits that love getting letters. My suggestion is to pick the organization that is meaningful to you. Do the military or first responders hold a place in your heart? What about senior citizens? Or how about people that are battling depression? Figure out which group resonates with you, because that will help you continue writing when you feel like maybe you have hit a wall. Below I have listed a few organizations to choose from:
- Letters Against Isolation
- Letters for First Responders or Military
- Letters Against Depression
- Letters for Elders
7. Host a Book/CD Drive
Thanksgiving week is the perfect time to clear out books and cds that you no longer need or want. Ask around to see if your friends have anything they want to contribute. See if you can create a post on a neighborhood Nextdoor or Facebook group or newsletter. I bet almost everyone you know has either books or cds that they would love to donate.
Who wants the donated books and CDs? I first suggest contacting your local library. Most libraries love book donations! Another option might be a senior living community or a local homeless shelter.
As you collect the books, make sure they are in good condition (pages and covers not torn, CDs are actually inside the case, etc…). Remember that it is likely a volunteer that processes your donations, so make sure they are actually receiving items that can be put to good use. If you donate items that are in such bad shape that they just have to be thrown away, that is a waste of everyone’s time (including yours).
8. Tutor for Free!
One of the easiest ways for students to virtually volunteer is tutor other students online.
This is a great way to help your community and help younger students. I would make a bet that your high school has some avenue for you to tutor students in lower grades. Whether it be tutoring someone else in the high school or it might be tutoring at the middle school or even elementary school.
Look on your high school’s website to see if you can find anything under the activities section. if you don’t find anything there, ask someone in the school’s front office. If you still have not found anything, make an appointment with the school counselor. They will certainly know if a program exists and if it doesn’t they might just start one since you asked. Starting a tutoring program at your high school might be worth writing about on a college application essay!
Another great option to get started tutoring is to signup on the website Learn to Be. This is an online community specifically designed for free online tutoring. You have to be at least 14 years old to become a volunteer. Learn to Be is a non-profit that brings free one to one tutoring for students in under resourced communities.
Just a note here that is probably obvious, make sure you are getting A’s in whatever subject you are offering to tutor. If you are a great history student but hate math, don’t offer to tutor in Algebra. Make sure you stick to the subjects you love. If you have parents that are happy with how you are helping their child, likely they will refer you to other parents and you will get more opportunities.
9. Become a Smithsonian Digital Volunteer
Believe it or not, the Smithsonian has used digital volunteers since 2013 to help transcribe and review over 1.2 million pages. There is a wide variety of types of material that needs to be transcribed. The Smithsonian Digital Volunteer program helps make historical documents and biodiversity data available to the public.
The projects are categorized into 8 different themes which are Women’s History, African American History, Civil War, Art & Design, Mysteries of the Universe, American Experiences, World Cultures, or Freedmen’s Bureau. There are also museum archives that have projects as well.
All of your activity is recorded inside your account with the Smithsonian, so you can track of the time you spent transcribing documents. Unfortunately, the Transcription Center staff does not have the manpower to sign off on volunteer service hours.
If you want an opportunities that you can do all from the comfort of your home, I encourage you to explore this Giving Tuesday idea.
10. Animal Shelter Towel & Blanket Drive
I guarantee your local animal shelter need towels and blankets. The towels can be used for drying off the animals after a bath, a makeshift bed or cleaning up messes that inevitably happen around the shelter. The towels can be any size. The shelters will accept both new and used towels. Just make sure they have been cleaned recently.
Blankets are great because they make for great comfy beds for the dogs. Small blankets might work for the cats. Again, just make sure the blankets have been recently washed.
You might be wondering where you get all of these towels and blankets. This is another opportunity where you can ask your friends, family and neighbors if they have any towels they would like to donate. Many families have old blankets or towels just taking up space in closets. You will need to check with your shelter to find out the best place to drop off your donations.
This post is all about virtual Giving Tuesday ideas for students.
During Thanksgiving break, take a few moments to determine how you will give back in honor of Giving Tuesday, which is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Better yet, decide on a tradition you will have every year during the month of November.
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”– Pablo Picasso
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