It will take many hands working together to continue to lift up our community.
In an extraordinary year, we witnessed Calgarians step up in extraordinary ways to help our families, friends, neighbours, and even strangers. The pandemic has challenged us to keep each other safe through physical distancing while focusing on social connections to keep our communities strong. However, the impacts of COVID-19 are still continuing to unfold in our local communities, and the need is greater than ever.
According to recent polls, 21 per cent of local people report that it’s challenging to afford groceries, while 50 per cent report feeling depressed because of the pandemic. People that have never had to turn to social services for help are reaching out for the first time. In October 2020, 211, the free 24/7 helpline that refers callers to appropriate supports, reported that contact volumes increased by 40 per cent compared to last year, and this year’s overall call volume is up by 73 per cent.
The needs in our community are deep-rooted—and deepening in complexity. But, we know we’re stronger together, so let’s lean into our strength to help Calgarians build a brighter year ahead. United, we can make the biggest difference.
Here are 10 ways you can get involved to support your local community for a more meaningful 2021:
1. Your donation can make a world of difference
Sometimes giving back is as simple as making a donation, if you’re able to give. Your contribution is more important than ever to keep critical services running and get help to those who need it most. To help our community, look for charities that live and breathe local. These are the ones working tirelessly to support our friends, families, and neighbours impacted by the pandemic. United Way of Calgary and Area is 100% local, so every donation is invested right where you live and work, helping improve lives today and in the future.
2. Making giving a year-round investment
If you want to make giving back to your community a lasting investment, non-profits benefit from monthly or reoccurring donations. It’s as easy as clicking a button or checking a box online. Giving usually happens at the end of the year, but it may make more financial sense to spread your gifts over 12 months. Think of it as a subscription for doing good! Also, reoccurring donations help non-profits forecast annual revenue, making it easier for them to offer steady support to the community throughout the year.
3. Unite friends and family through giving back
Why not use a special occasion like a birthday or holiday to unite people by working towards a cause? Instead of gifts, you could ask people to contribute to a group that you are passionate about, or purchase a smaller gift along with making a donation to a non-profit of your choice. This helps raise awareness of issues and challenges facing local communities while making people feel good. A 2006 study from the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a positive effect.
4. Donate Your Talents
Have you ever thought about how your hobbies or skills could benefit those in need? If you’re good at sewing, or if you’ve wanted to learn, now is the time! There are organizations looking for help to make facemasks, scarves, or toques. Many non-profits have opportunities for people to join their boards too. You can even set up virtual meetings between parent groups to teach a music class, read a story, host a movement (exercise) session, or anything else you can think of! United Way Calgary and Area has a dedicated group of volunteers who use their business skills to help non-profit organizations meet the needs of the people they serve. We’re always on the lookout for skilled volunteers. Learn more about the GAIN Team!
5. Volunteer Your Time
Volunteering your time is one of the greatest ways you can give back and make an impact in your community. Don’t let physical distancing come between you and giving back. To support people who are dealing with domestic abuse or depression, consider volunteering for a crisis hotline or text line. There are also opportunities to get groceries for the elderly and persons with mobility challenges. Any amount of time that you can volunteer makes a difference, even if it’s as simple as spending 10 minutes shoveling the sidewalk for an elderly neighbour.
6. Lean Into Local
If you’re striving to create change in your own community, you’re not alone. Many people are choosing to support initiatives to keep our vibrant city alive. From ordering takeout from restaurants in your community, to shopping at a local small business, or supporting local entertainment and artists. There are many ways you can join a virtual event, order online, or take part at a distance.
7. Stay connected to combat loneliness and isolation
We’ve all spending more time at home to keep each other safe through physical distancing. While some of us may be enjoying the quiet time, for many people, including those who are elderly, experiencing mental health struggles, or live alone, this isolation can have serious negative impacts on health and well-being. If you can, reach out and check in on people often, especially elderly relatives. Scheduling a video chat or even a phone call can go a long way. Big or small, every effort counts! If you are struggling with feeling isolated, volunteering is a great way to combat loneliness, as is adopting or fostering a pet. Support is there if you need it – contact 211 to connect with supports and services available to you.
8. Help spread the word
Everyone has a Facebook and Twitter account these days, maybe even TikTok. But social media for non-profits is about more than just getting likes. Many non-profits rely on social media to get their message out, and every share or retweet can go a long way. Consider engaging and sharing posts that your favourite non-profit posts to help boost their message. Customize it and make it your own with details about why you like to support them. The results of sharing posts and supporting non-profits digitally can snowball into more awareness and interest which leads to more support.
9. Get involved through your workplace
Many workplaces already have a corporate social responsibility, volunteering, or charitable giving program. And many workplaces offer their employees a matching gifts program, so when you give to a non-profit they too will financially match your donation. Each year so many dollars are left unclaimed because people weren’t aware of the matching contributions or didn’t donate through their company. If you’re passionate about giving back, getting involved with your company’s program is a great way to give back and highlight the need in your local community. If you’re not sure where to start or need more ideas, have a look at our resources.
10. Reach out if you need support
It’s important for us to take care of ourselves so we can be our best selves. This is a challenging time for so many, but it can be tough to reach out for help. Most of us would be surprised to find out just how willing others are to help out. We’ve seen countless stories of people supporting one another and going above and beyond for strangers. We’re all in this together, but everyone’s situation is unique. If you’ve been impacted by COVID-19 and don’t know where to turn, please contact 211 to be connected to supports and services in your community. Simply dial 211, text “INFO” to 211, or visit ab.211.ca. 211 is a free community and social services help line made possible by United Way of Calgary and Area. When you reach out for support, you’re taking action for a more meaningful 2021.
Your gift improves local lives
United Way of Calgary and Area brings people together to solve complex social issues and improve lives. Your investment stays local and is strategically invested right where you live, work, and raise your family, helping people overcome poverty, supporting kids to succeed, and strengthening neighbourhoods. Through your support we can help ensure a more meaningful 2021 for everyone. United, we make the biggest difference.