Christie Garton and girls

People today are busier than they’ve ever been. A study found that 73% of Millennials are expected to be contactable any time of day or night and trying to balance an “always on” work mentality with some semblance of a social life means we realistically have very little free time. So how do you fit in giving back – something that is very important to our generation? While you may want to spend a few hours each week volunteering to help kids learn how to read or at the local animal shelter, often you just don’t have the time to do so. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something that contributes to society in a positive way. Here are a few ways you can give back, even when your schedule is packed.

Donate What You Have

Donations are the life-blood of non-profit organizations. While monetary donations are always welcome, there are many ways to put what you already have to good use. Did you know that one blood donation takes about 20-30 minutes total but can save the lives of up to three people? Needles make you a little squeamish? Round up all those books you weren’t crazy about and donate them to your local library or an organization like Books for Africa that send donated books to libraries and schools in Africa to help children learn to read and grow their imaginations. Got a packed closet but want to put those older clothes to good use? Pull out that suit jacket you haven’t worn since your first interview and donate it to Dress for Success, an organization that provides professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to disadvantaged women.

Dial a Donation

Our generation is the first one of digital-natives, so using our phones for the greater good is possibly the simplest thing we can do. Try downloading one of the many apps that donate to charities while you do things you normally do anyway – taking only a few seconds out of your day to give back! Open up Charity Miles when you go on your next run or bike ride and you’ll earn 10 to 25 cents per mile for a charity of your choice. Not big into outdoor exercise? Download Johnson and Johnson’s Donate a Photo app and for every photo you upload, a dollar will be donated to a charity of your choice.

Social Enterprise

Seeking out and purchasing from companies that strive to positively impact the community through commercial strategies is another easy way to give back that takes virtually no time at all. My company, UChic, creates tech products and books for high-school and college-aged women, and we donate a portion of each sale to a scholarship fund that benefits those same women, funding out-of-classroom experiences that put them another step closer to their dreams. Other social enterprises that you may be familiar with are TOMS, which donates one pair of shoes for every pair purchased, or FEED, which donates a portion of every bag sale to help feed hungry children. These companies make it easy for anyone to give.

Make a Little Extra

Next time you’re cooking or baking, consider making a double-batch and bringing it to an elderly neighbor, a local Ronald McDonald House, a senior home or a soup kitchen. Things like soup, cookies and brownies are easy to double and they are always welcomed by those who are unable to cook for themselves. Hot, fresh meals provide comfort to those in need, and preparing them won’t take you much more time than you’re already spending for yourself.

By determining what causes are important to you, you can seek out ways – both small and large – to contribute. No matter how packed your schedule is, you can find a few moments in your day to give back.

Christie is an award-winning social entrepreneur and creator of UC​hic​, a mission-driven lifestyle brand for high school and college-aged women in the U.S. Christie is also an acclaimed author of the best-selling college guidebook for women, "UChic: The College Girl's Guide to Everything," which has sold more than 100,000 copies. She has penned six books on various facets of the college experience and millennial generation.

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