James Walker: Goodwill to all starts with the gift of giving

The holiday season is often associated with overspending and eating. But we're also a nation of givers in the UK. From charitable donations to volunteering and giving time, I'm proud that the UK is one of the most generous countries when it comes to helping others less fortunate.

Why not donate warm clothes to help homeless people? Picture: John Devlin

People are often telling me how much they want to help out in some way during this time of goodwill to all. But it’s not always easy to know how to get started. So I thought I’d write the column this week about how you can get involved.

How do I donate to a foodbank?

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Like many of the tips on this list, it’s easy to track down your local foodbank with an internet search. The Trussell Trust runs 420 foodbanks around the UK. There are loads of great schemes operating locally too. The trust has a guide for people who might want to donate a food parcel – and non-food items are really appreciated too. Why not check in advance with your local foodbank to see if there’s anything they need specifically?

How do I donate clothes to the homeless?

It’s really cold this winter, so why not donate warm clothes to help homeless people? You’ll need to check out the schemes in your local area for this one (type your town and “clothing bank” into a search drive). Shelter, Crisis and the Salvation Army all work supporting homeless people.

How do I volunteer for a helpline?

January is the time of year when people need help the most. Speak to the Samaritans or Sane about volunteering for their helplines – or if you have a favourite charity, ask them how you can get involved more directly. Many people worry about whether they’ll be able to cope with this work – and it may not be for everyone. But most callers to helplines simply need someone to listen to them and understand how they feel. So make a difference to someone who needs a friendly ear this winter.

How do I help an older person?

Older people often find Christmas hard. Age UK offers a wide range of ways to help, from befriending someone in your local area to setting up events. Alternatively, just speak to your older or more vulnerable neighbours. Make sure they know they’re supported, check their essential services are working and invite them round if you can.

How do I find a charity to donate to?

Loads of people want to donate to a charity but aren’t sure which one to go for. There are thousands of charities out there so think about the issues that matter to you, then type in keywords in to the Charity Commission database to find some options.

It’s also possible to donate through your wage packet if your employer is signed up to a “payroll giving scheme” (also known as “give as you earn”). These schemes allow you to donate from your wages before tax and many companies match the donation.

Christmas is a time for reflection and helping others. But when the tinsel and tree come down, many problems remain. We’d love to hear your stories about schemes to help people in your local area, so we can promote them where we can. Get in touch – and have a merry Christmas.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk