20 Ways To Make An Incredible Impact In 4 Hours Or Less

01/22/2014 08:21 am ET | Updated Jan 25, 2014


By Emma Haak

Giving back doesn't have to mean giving up every weekend.

1-5 Minutes

• Want to save a life? Sign up for your state's donation registry through OrganDonor.gov.

• Use Goodsearch.com's Yahoo!-powered search engine every time you browse the Web, and you'll automatically give to a nonprofit like the American Cancer Society.

• Donate hotel loyalty points and airline miles on Wish.org to help the Make-A-Wish Foundation grant requests to children with life-threatening conditions.

• Play crossword puzzles at Charitii.com, and the site's sponsors will make a contribution to one of five charities for each correct answer.

30 Minutes

• Re-gift the blender and other household goods you didn't ask for to a local firehouse (call ahead), so first responders can make their living quarters feel like home.

• Mail a letter of appreciation to a member of the military through AMillionThanks.org.

• Gather your old cell phones and laptops for donation to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which will resell them to fund outreach programs.

• Download the Charity Miles app and go for a run, walk, or bike ride; you can earn up to 25 cents per mile for nonprofits, including Autism Speaks and Stand Up to Cancer.

1-2 Hours

• Bring a little TLC to neglected public spaces in your town by organizing volunteers to pick up garbage. Use social media to spread the word about your "Trash Mob."

• Explain why Horton hears a Who, as a United Way volunteer reader, mentor, or tutor for elementary schoolchildren.

• Assemble gift bags for Cheerful Givers, a nonprofit that distributes birthday presents to kids at food pantries and shelters.

• Give a pint of blood. Make an appointment at RedCrossBlood.org.

4 Hours

• Head to a soup kitchen, where you can greet and seat guests, bus tables, wash dishes, or prepare and serve meals. Look for one at FoodPantries.org.

• Run errands for the elderly or shuttle them to and from doctors' appointments. Find a neighborhood senior center through the National Council on Aging.

• Help the Salvation Army staff sort through donated clothing. (They receive more than 300 million pounds a year.) Find a branch at SalvationArmy.com.

• Round up a few funny or uplifting DVDs and host a family movie night at your local Ronald McDonald House. (There are 176 locations throughout the country.)

4+ Hours

• Show off your fashion sense by helping disadvantaged women choose job-interview outfits through Dress for Success.

• Go to Habitat.org to sign up for a shift with Habitat for Humanity, which needs volunteers of all skill levels to build homes for low-income families.

• Host a board game party for adults with developmental disabilities at a group home in your area. Find one through the advocacy organization The Arc.

• Help the homeless find places to get warm. Check Volunteers of America for opportunities at shelters in your town.

  • The Gooey But Not Greasy Microwavable Mexican Dinner
    The frozen burrito has been stuck in a kind of healthy food limbo -- is it bad for you? overly salty? a decent late-night dinner? -- until recently. Stock your freezer with Evol (that's love, backwards) burritos, and you'll be eating something good. The company uses ingredients like free-range, hormone-free chicken, humanely raised beef, house-made salsa and organic beans -- and recently started making some of its burritos with gluten-free tortillas.
    $2.74 each | EvolFoods.com
  • The Just-The-Tastiest-Part Brownie
    Brownie Brittle
    If you're the person who always wants the corner piece of a tray of brownies, Sheila G's Brownie Brittle might be your new best friend. The thin, crispy fragments taste just like those crunchy brownie bits. The company's newest flavor, Salted Caramel, is a satisfying mix of sweet and salty -- and one serving is only 120 calories.
    $10.95 for 2 bags | BrownieBrittle.com
  • The Better-Than-What-They-Sell-At-The-Movies Popcorn
    Quinn Popcorn
    The first sign that Quinn Popcorn is not your average microwavable snack-in-a-bag is the cool flavors (hello, Parmesan & Rosemary and Hickory Smoked Cheddar). In addition to the brilliant combinations, the makers behind this addictive popcorn use organic corn and no GMO ingredients or preservatives -- and they've figured out how to package their popcorn in such a way that there's no need for chemical coatings.
    $14.99 for 3 boxes (2 bags per box) | QuinnPopcorn.com
  • The Hot Cocoa That Needs No Marshmallows
    We've found a rich, sweet hot chocolate that's so good, we'd even hunker down with a mug-full on a steamy August afternoon. NibMor Organic Vegan Drinking Chocolate comes in traditional, mint, and 6-spice (a zippy blend of chai and peppery notes) and doesn't include any of the corn syrup, hydrogenated oil or artificial flavor found in some other brands.
    $8.99 for 6 packets | NibMor.com
  • The Salty, Chewy Road Trip Snack
    Krave Jerky
    If, like us, you long ago wrote off jerky as teenager fuel (read: loaded with salt, preservatives and artificial ingredients), it may be time to give the cured meat another chance. New, better-for-you brands are flooding the market, such as nitrate- and hormone-free Krave, which makes adventurous flavors like Black Cherry Barbecue and Basil Citrus.
    $7 per bag | KraveJerky.com
  • The Decadent Breakfast Sandwich
    Whole Foods Market
    Try this dessert-like spin on the traditional morning on-the-go meal: Spread one toaster waffle with a spoonful each of whipped cream cheese and strawberry preserves, add sliced strawberries and whole blackberries, then put one more waffle on top. It's creamy, tart and -- if you use multigrain waffles, such as 365 Everyday Value Organic Multigrain -- healthy, too.
    $2.99 | WholeFoods.com
  • A Drinkable Dessert
    The Republic of Tea
    It sounds too good to be true: How could a cup of tea even remotely resemble a slice of red velvet cake? But believe us when we tell you The Republic of Tea's Red Velvet Cuppa Chocolate Tea is the closest thing to liquid dessert that we've ever tasted. It's made from decaf rooibos tea leaves blended with chocolate and beet root bits (some cake recipes include the vegetable, too, for that distinct color). With a splash of milk and a pinch of sugar, a cup tastes shockingly similar to a cupcake.
    $10 for 36 bags | RepublicOfTea.com