Yes, yes, you really should add one more list to your list of lists this holiday season

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It's the season for making lists! With work, life, and community blurring together in today's social impact culture, you're not alone if you find your desk and phone full of notes about important personal and professional action items to accomplish between now and the end of the year.

Here's what I've got cooking:

  • Names and addresses for holiday cards (I am finally getting around to it this year for the first time since 2011)
  • Gift ideas for friends, colleagues, clients, and family (my running list is started in my phone, although each of the kids has supplied me with her own Google Doc with Amazon links to make my shopping easy--so nice of them!?!)
  • Important projects at work that must be completed before December 31 (we love helping community foundations make their year-end work easier!)
  • Budget planning lists to prepare for 2018 in the company and at home (already in full swing!)
  • 2018 New Year's Resolutions (my list is started so that I have lots of time to edit out the unrealistic items)
  • List of ingredients for making favorite holiday treats (I love this particular to-do list!)

Will you freak if I suggest you consider adding one more list to your list of lists? This is worth it.

Over the course of our five-year study to understand the contemporary philanthropic mindset, more than 92% of hundreds of participants who took the time to reflect on all the ways they do good felt better about the difference they're making in the lives of others through their good deeds. It turns out not only that social impact behavior is good for the causes you care about, but it's good for you, too.


In that spirit, as the holiday season shifts into full swing, take a few minutes to jot down all the ways you do good on a blank sheet of paper, numbered 1-10. (In our book, Do Good, Feel Better, we offered up this sample checklist to save you time.)

It doesn’t have to be that formal, though. (It doesn't have to be pink and purple, either.) You can jot down your own ways to do good just about anywhere—in your phone, on the back of your other to-do lists, in the margins of old homework papers left behind by the kids, or on whatever scraps of paper you find in your desk drawer.

Here's an example of a Holiday Social Impact Checklist jotted down in late December by one of the participants in our research study:

Giving. While we were checking out cookie recipes online, we checked out a few charities, too. We Googled the kids’ favorite causes by using key words like “children in need” and “homeless pets.”
Volunteering. We delivered holiday cookies to the staff at a nursing home.
Recycling. We made sure to deliver our holiday treats to neighbors in reusable containers instead of using plastic wrap. I took the time to explain to my children why that is important.
Serving. I was on the committee to plan the kids’ holiday parties at school. I told the kids that this was an important gift!
Celebrating. I showed my company spirit by attending the office holiday party where everyone donated canned goods and winter coats for a homeless shelter.
Marketing. I posted the office party photos on my Facebook page (well, some of them), and I included a shout out to the charity we all supported.
Purchasing. I took the kids shopping for holiday gifts and helped them spot all the opportunities to give back as we bought gifts for others.
Donating. See above. The office party checked two good boxes!
Sharing. We baked gingerbread cookies and decorated them with the names of the people our family loves. Then we delivered the cookies in person.
Caring. I had the kids make a list of the things they are grateful for, just before they made their lists for Santa. It boosted their moods, and mine, too!

This holiday season, give this list a try. Chances are, you're making an even bigger difference than you think. And that's always something to celebrate.