The essential guide to giving back

Crushers Club founder Sally Hazelgrove speaks a few words at a benefit

Charity is chic. Giving back is en vogue. Benevolence is the new black. We are obsessed with underdogs, altruism and anything “for a good cause.” I recently attended a benefit for Crushers Club, a nonprofit boxing club on Chicago’s South Side striving to crush hopelessness and keep at-risk youth off the streets. This event featured all the typical trappings: slick studio space, catered tacos and booze, an inspirational short film. But at the end of the day, these bells and whistles generated buzz and captivated a crowd of motivated movers and shakers.

Ultimately, we all want to make the world a better place. But with a gazillion socially-conscious organizations and opportunities to choose from, how do you decide where to devote your time and money? Here are a few tips to help you get down to the nitty-gritty of giving back.

Sign your life away.

The best way to cut through the noise and make a real difference is by rolling up your sleeves. Are you a culinary mastermind? Sign up to lead a cooking class. Are you a sports fanatic? Volunteer to ref a Special Olympics competition. Got a green thumb? Join a community garden. It’s easy to get hooked on volunteering when it aligns with your interests and hobbies. As a side-benefit, volunteering is a great way to fish for new friends and professional connections. Plus, adding it to your resume can give you an edge with employers.

Spread the word.

A personal endorsement is more convincing than a thousand ads. Is a nifty nonprofit hosting a fundraiser? Tell your friends! I would’ve never found out about the Crushers Club benefit without a text from my roommate. Armchair activism gets a bad rap, but many amazing organizations wouldn’t make it up the hill without a heaping dose of online support. Don’t hesitate to click share!

Invest in your community.

Combat gentrification in your area by frequenting businesses in your community. From barbershops to breweries, locally-owned businesses make a neighborhood feel like a neighborhood. Many of these businesses also strive to be socially-conscious and support local farms. While the buzzwords can be a bit overused—farm-to-table, artisanal, microbrew—sustainable business practices are worth supporting. Don’t be afraid to go bananas for those organic bananas!

Click the donate button.

Not all heroes wear capes. Some donate to charitable organizations. Whether you choose to support on a one-time basis or in monthly increments, an online donation is an easy yet vital way to give back. One thing to be aware of—many charities need to fund administrative expenses and only allocate a portion of donations to the needy. To make the most of your altruism, try to find charities that cover all or nearly all of their operating expenses, so that more of your money goes to those in need and not overhead. So sign up for that volunteer spot, tell your friends about an upcoming fundraiser, check out the new neighborhood gastropub and click to donate. You’re well on your way to making the world a better place!

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