Most New Year’s intentions tend to be about improving ourselves — losing weight, saving more money, spending time with family, reading more books and traveling to far-off places.

But some of the most fulfilling New Year’s resolutions are ones that help others, especially right here at home. And when you help your community, more often than not you improve yourself along the way. One study showed that a group of adults who volunteered frequently were less likely to develop high blood pressure, while this study showed that people who donated a portion of money rather than keep it all for themselves appeared to feel greater happiness. Unlike the broad, vague plans many of us make when this time of year comes around, these are specific actions you can take now to make the world around you a better place.


Here are four ideas to get started:

  1. Donate to local organizations.

San Francisco nonprofits are working on the ground right now to fight some of the Bay Area’s most pressing problems, including homelessness, poverty, underfunded schools and immigration barriers.

A comprehensive list of San Francisco organizations is here. Some examples of organizations we’ve partnered with and love to support include Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco, the Junior League of San Francisco and the Mechanics’ Institute Library and Chess Room. Make a one-time donation or, even better, sign on for a monthly recurring donation.

  1. Volunteer your time.

In addition to volunteering in schools with the San Francisco Education Fund, organizations like Mission GraduatesMission Economic Development Agency, Project Homeless Connect and the San Francisco Botanical Garden need volunteers. Find more opportunities to volunteer near you on VolunteerMatch.

  1. Shop local.

Local bookstores, grocers and coffee shops are bedrocks of the community. They provide a place to gather, offer artists and makers an outlet to sell their creations and are a part of San Francisco’s unique character. Shops like Alley Cat Books, Borderlands and Dog-Eared Books in the Mission and Alexander Book Company downtown along with multiple Green Apple Books locations provide great options for buying books. There’s also Mollie Stone’s for groceries, Sports Basement for sporting goods and Paxton Gate for all kinds of oddities. There are practically endless options for buying locally in SF.

  1. Bestow random acts of kindness.

It doesn’t take much money or time to simply be kind and make someone’s day a bit brighter. Buy a coffee for the person behind you in line at a café, tip generously to a waiter or waitress serving you, write positive notes to friends and coworkers, thank a teacher or donate a book.


Want to volunteer with the San Francisco Education Fund in the new year to help public school students and teachers succeed? Sign up here.

Don’t have time to volunteer? Consider making a donation.