If you hadn’t noticed Nelnet is big on giving back to communities – so much so, that it’s one of our core values. Many of our associates are passionate about making a difference and support causes local, national, and even worldwide. But in 2020, some of those volunteer opportunities changed or were no longer possible. We’re hoping 2021 looks a little brighter – but just in case, here are a few ways you can plan ahead and make a difference in the new year. 

Think virtual. 

If you aren’t comfortable volunteering in person next year – or it’s not an option with a particular community organization – there are still a ton of ways you can volunteer virtually! In 2020, people had to get really creative. Keep an eye out for virtual opportunities in your community. If you don’t see any, it could be time for you to take the initiative. How? 

Use your skills. 

Think about your hobbies (or even your job). Are you an aspiring chef? Love working out? Miss having board game nights? Reach out to your community center or local organizations to see if they’d sponsor a virtual class or event with you as the leader. You won’t just be giving back to the community – you’ll be growing yourself personally and professionally by taking this project on. 

Donate blood. 

A lot of blood drives and local events were cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19. But, as long as you’re healthy and take the right steps, you can still donate blood. Check in with the American Red Cross or a local blood bank to make sure you’re able to safely set up an appointment. 

Spend your time. 

Some organizations already have opportunities to serve that don’t involve in-person contact. Crisis hotlines are a great example of this. They’re often on the lookout for volunteers – and even if they aren’t, they’ll know exactly how you can still support them. 

Make a financial donation. 

For some people, the best way to give back is by donating money. That’s great! If you’re in a spot where you’re able to provide financial support to local organizations, there are plenty that could use the help. Some employers (like us) will even match your gifts, so your donation goes even further. 

Buy local whenever possible. 

Small businesses have been hurt over the past year. With limits on in-person interaction, many people have understandably felt uncomfortable going out. When you order delivery or takeout for dinner, consider going with a local option. Is your favorite business selling merchandise you’ve always thought about buying, but never had a reason to? Now’s the time. It’s important to remember that these small shops aren’t just local businesses – they’re run by people like your neighbors and friends. By supporting them, you’re making the community stronger. 

Nelnet-matched donations and paid time to volunteer are just two perks of being a Nelnet associate. Curious about the others? Check ‘em out.