10 Cool Ways to Give Back in 2015

With a new year often comes a new perspective of oneself, a hope for a "better you." And with the journey of self-betterment often comes a long list of things to do, not only for yourself, but for the people around you. It's important to find ways to give back, and nothing feels as wonderful as helping out a less fortunate person, place, or animal in the world you inhabit. From mentoring programs to community outreach work, here are 10 ways to give back in 2015, because as Rihanna has shown us, even bad girls are cool with being good.

If everyone was a little bit kinder, gave a little bit more, and worked a little bit harder, imagine what a different world it would be. Now I know that no one's perfect, but when you choose to do something for your community that is completely selfless and focused on someone else for a change, it actually feels pretty darn good. What may be one hour of your week can affect the entire life of somebody else, and well, that's something worth spending your time on. You can give your time, your talent, your company, or your money... but I guarantee you that by giving something, you're giving a whole lot more than what you may think. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Children & Youth Mentoring Programs

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If you don't remember, sometimes it's tough being a kid, and having a mentor around can mean the world to a child or teenager. Check out groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters to learn how you can get involved with helping kids in your neighborhood.

2. Volunteer at an Animal Shelter and/or Foster an Animal

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They may be of a different species, but domesticated animals need as much attention and love as humans do. Find out if you can volunteer your time at the local animal shelter to either clean cages or help socialize with the animals. If you're ready to take a bigger step, try fostering a homeless animal at your house until he can find a good home. (Or you fall in love and adopt him, obvi.)

3. Get Involved with Public Art

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If you know how to paint, photograph, sculpt, or plan, get involved with your community's public art scene. Whether it's helping with a mural or planning artist events, find a way to contribute to making the public more beautiful.

4. Help Out with the Community Garden

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Not everyone has a green thumb, but if you do, why not use it to help grow and expand your neighborhood's local community garden? You're not only making the area more aesthetically appealing, but you're also probably helping produce a local food source.

5. Share Your Talents

Are you a certified yogi? How about a talented painter? Do you have a black belt? Whatever it is you do for pleasure, many others can glean pleasure from it as well. If you have an extroverted personality, consider setting up free classes where you can share your skills with others.

6. Help People in Need

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Soup kitchens and food banks aren't just for the holidays, they're for year-round, much needed help in the less fortunate community. Try to volunteer at a soup kitchen on a regular basis, not just when the holidays remind you. Is your closet overflowing with things you haven't worn in three years? Donate some of your wardrobe!

7. Write Letters and Make Greeting Cards

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Receiving a handwritten letter in the mail can make just about anyone's day. Become pen pals with a prisoner, write letters to soldiers, or brighten a sick child's day at the cost of a single stamp and 20 minutes spent at a desk. A little bit goes a long way.

8. Volunteer Time to the Elderly

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Society has a tendency to start forgetting about people once they age, and that habit needs to stop. The elderly helped build the world you enjoy today, so thank them for it. Volunteer your time at assisted living houses and senior homes. You might even pick up some old school wisdom during visits.

9. Clean Up Your Neighborhood

Everyone wants their neighborhood to be spotless, but sometimes time and resources just don't allow for the proper attention from government officials. Get your hands dirty — literally. Whether you volunteer through the county or go guerrilla, cleaning up streets, parks, and playgrounds is a wonderful way to get involved.

10. Make a Fiscal Donation

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Sometimes it's hard to make time, and if such is the case, making a fiscal donation can still make a world of difference. Find a charity that you love, research where the funding is going, and try to set apart a certain percentage of your paycheck to help that cause, even if it's only 2 percent. A penny a day makes a difference.

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