15 Low-Effort, High-Impact Ways to Fight for a Better World
Realistic ways you can help build a better tomorrow—starting today.
If you’re experiencing some combination of helplessness and hopelessness lately, you’re not alone. Between record-breaking heat waves and devastating setbacks for women’s reproductive health, the amount of suffering in the world is nothing short of overwhelming—a feeling that is compounded by the endless news cycle at our fingertips. We understand all too well that society’s afflictions loom large, while potential progress is tied up in complex political systems and economic interests. So how do we even begin to create meaningful change?
For starters: don’t lose hope. While we won’t fix anything overnight, we have to envision a better tomorrow if we want one. As with anything you’re looking to improve—be it your career, your closet, your relationship—bettering society is a balancing act between criticism and optimism: You have to acknowledge the problem and believe in a solution. The next step is to start small in pursuing change. To be clear, small does not denote minimal impact; it speaks to the concept of committing your time or money consistently and in a way that works in harmony with your day job or budget.
In order to capture a well-rounded picture of what this looks like in action, I turned to busy but civic-minded women across the globe who were delighted to share how they choose to engage with the issues that matter to them most. Here are their recommendations for 15 low-effort, high-impact ways to fight for a better world.
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Donating money is perhaps the most obvious way to maximize your impact when you have little to no time to spare. I personally have a recurring $5 donation set up with Planned Parenthood, but you can also donate physical goods to places that need them if you want to know precisely how your resources are being used. Ashley, a COO in Denver, told me that she donates to her local food bank once a week. “It really is simple,” she says. “You can either buy additional items at the grocery store and drop them off at the food bank, or you can hand these items to the grocery store manager, who can include them in the store’s regular donation. Next time you’re grocery shopping, I encourage you to add a few extra items to your list. Many would be surprised to learn that 12% of the American population struggles with hunger; meanwhile, many of us have the resources to help reduce this number.”
Support Small Businesses
You can also put your dollars to work by shopping small when you’re purchasing daily necessities. “Supporting small businesses is a great way both to contribute to people in your community and to lessen your environmental footprint,” says Heather. “I like to shop small by replenishing my household staples at independent drugstores and by finding locally grown produce at the store or farmer’s market. You have to do your shopping anyway, so you might as well go for the smaller shops instead of the big box stores.”
Volunteering is an especially rewarding way to give back due to the direct human connections you develop, but donating your time can be tricky when you feel like you have none to spare. “I started volunteering for Pagus Africa, an NGO that provides grassroots, community-led programming for youth in rural Ghana, when I felt like I ‘had no time,’” says Amber, an entrepreneur working in Ireland. “Once I found a way to build it into my schedule, my life molded around my commitment. I set aside the same time every week to work on a predetermined set of tasks, and that helped me to incorporate volunteer work into my week without having to juggle things to ‘fit it in.’”
You can grow your own efforts exponentially by involving others, who might then be inspired to get even more people on board, and so on and so forth. “For my birthday this year, I sent a text to my friends asking them to donate essential items for care packages to be given to our homeless population,” says Michelle, a business coach in Atlanta. “Some sent physical toiletries, while others donated money. I was so moved that we were able to put 331 care packages together at a birthday giveback brunch. It was fun, easy, and everyone else said they’d been looking for ways to give back.”
Spotlight Others’ Efforts
Highlighting the actions that others are taking is another way you can create a snowball effect. If you have a platform, dedicate some of your content to spotlighting individuals or organizations whose efforts you want to support. “Because I have a travel blog focused on Connecticut, I have turned my daily work into an opportunity to highlight people I admire in my community,” says Suzanne. “To me, making a difference means amplifying others’ voices and passions. This work can seem small, but it has a greater impact than you’d expect: It creates an endless, powerful cycle if everyone does it.”
Use Social Media for Good
Even if you don’t publish content professionally, you might have a platform in your pocket: social media. “I like to share, follow, and create posts that help bring people together on a subject I’m passionate about,” says Deb, a marketing professional in New York. “This tactic allows you to do something productive while you scroll on your phone—meaning you stay connected to the things that you care about even as you clear your notifications.”
Get Involved in Your Community
If you’re looking to have a direct impact in your own backyard, try participating in community meetings or local politics. “I learned that most local community meetings happen after working hours, usually in the early evening,” says Aimee, a business owner. “This timing allows me to attend the majority of meetings, which I’ve grown to love, as they’re really great ways to remain up-to-date on community issues and meet the big players who can help me make the difference I desire.”
Make Your Work More Purposeful
If you’re unable to find consistent, brief chunks of time outside of work, try making your day job more purposeful. This effort could look like advocating for greater diversity in hiring decisions, requesting that management pivot to more sustainable office supplies, or simply making a conscious effort to create genuine connections with those around you. “I help out in my little way by going above and beyond with our clients,” says Hebe, an events manager in France. “I really get to know them first and then offer my advice on how they can make their events better. I know that this may not seem significant, but I have clients coming back to me months after their event, thanking me for changing their special moments with my support. There’s a lot we can do to influence and inspire by just doing more than what’s expected of us.”
Offer Pro Bono Services
Pro bono work isn’t just for lawyers. Whether you’re a writer or a doctor, you can wield your professional superpower as a form of donation. “I use my industry skills and professional network to volunteer for organizations that lack resources,” says Mary, a PR manager for the Humane Society. “While I do as much pro bono work as my schedule allows, I also make an effort to include animal welfare stories within my more typical business pitches while I’m ‘on the clock.’”
Be a Supportive Leader
If you’re in a leadership position, you can make your work more purposeful by fostering an equitable, supportive culture. “As a company leader, you get to set the tone of a work environment, and how you conduct your business daily is an excellent opportunity to make a positive difference,” says Ann, a founder and CEO in Los Angeles. “Creating a healthy work culture and letting your employees know that their thoughts and feelings matter is a means of improving the world around you. To me, this means establishing an atmosphere that nurtures individuals and helps them be the best version of their true selves.”
Serve as a Mentor
Whether in a professional or personal context, mentoring is a fantastic way to give to those who can gain from your expertise in a certain area. “If your work allows it, you can mentor students in order to show them what your job is like and what the daily expectations are,” says Heather, a speech pathologist in Ohio. “As long as it’s not distracting from your work, you might as well help the next generation make informed future career choices while serving as a positive role model.”
Value Mental and Physical Health
“Self-care” is somewhat of a buzzword these days, but for good reason. You can’t take care of others effectively if you’re not taking care of yourself both mentally and physically. “As a school counselor, I work with young students, their families, and faculty members,” says Jennifer, who lives in Philadelphia. “My goal is not only to teach skills that help individuals and communities deal with mental health issues, but also to instill the idea that the very decision to seek therapy is an act of compassion for yourself and others.” In the realm of physical health, Meera, a yoga and meditation teacher in India, emphasizes the need for more movement in modern society, especially in the elderly community. “People, particularly elderly people, lack the resources necessary to maintain their physical resilience and lead healthy lives,” she says. “Try engaging your loved ones, or even neighbors, in 30-minute walks. Walking is not only a non-strenuous cardio activity but also an easy way of connecting you with others and getting you out in nature.”
Reach Out to Loved Ones
Whether you’re inviting a loved one on a walk or surprising them with a short phone call, reach out to family and friends on a regular basis. “If you can find time to make a phone call for your job, you can find the time to speak to a friend,” says Stacy, a CEO in Denver. “You never know what someone is going through, which is why a phone call can be so significant, even if brief. Telling someone you love them can truly be a boost that lasts them through the day. You know how good it feels when someone thinks of you, so keep that in mind when you’re debating whether or not to pick up the phone.”
Share Your Perspective
In a country that feels unprecedentedly polarized, there is a need for more nuanced, honest dialogue. You can close information gaps and dispel assumptions most effectively by engaging friends and family (the people who likely trust you most) in regular, respectful conversations. “If you disagree with someone, don’t shy away from the discomfort,” says Renata, an immigration attorney. “Some women I know value very traditional gender roles, so I shed light on my own values by being very open about how fulfilling it is to be a working woman in addition to a wife and mother. Many people have simply never had the opportunity to challenge their established worldview. I find people are actually quite open to learning more if you share your perspective while trying to understand where they’re coming from, as well.”
Spread Small Moments of Joy
At M.M., one of our most cherished company values is joie de vivre, the enjoyment of life. From planting joy to designing exuberant prints, we believe that finding beauty in the little things has a cumulative, positive effect on your life and others. Lila, a communications executive, agrees. “I started a kindness project here in Boise called Keep Boise Kind,” she says. “It started simple, with bumper stickers, and has since grown to include an array of small merchandise, school fundraising initiatives, and community kindness projects. With the community buying and wearing our merchandise, we remind people to be a little kinder throughout their day. Our sales also allow us to give back a portion of our proceeds to local nonprofits addressing housing, homelessness, and transportation needs. If you’re not looking to start a whole side hustle, though, I recommend making an extra serving of whatever you’re having for dinner and giving it to a neighbor or someone in need. A little goes a long way.”