Do something meaningful in 2017: 10 ways to make a difference

Do something meaningful in 2017: 10 ways to make a difference Let’s face it: 2016 was a challenging year. From the migrant crisis and political unrest to climate changefood security and the UK teacher shortage, we saw many issues reach their boiling point. Now more than ever we need to rally behind our communities and find a way to make a difference. We’ve compiled this list of 10 ways to make a difference so that you can do just that, and make a lasting impact on the groups that need you the most.

Support a nonprofit
An easy way to make a difference is to support a nonprofit organisation, either through volunteering or via donation. You can support local grassroots organisations via donation platforms like LocalgivingJustGiving or CharityChoice. You can also contribute to global nonprofits through crowdfunding platforms like GlobalGiving and Razoo. Supporting a nonprofit organisation is an effective way to make a difference, especially if you have limited resources or you’re on a tight budget.
Become a tutor 
Research has shown that more than half a million children in the UK are in ‘super-sized’ classes of 35 pupils and above. These children get less one-on-one time with their teacher and may not be getting the attention and support they need to succeed. Becoming a tutor is a great way to support overloaded teachers and provide much-needed support to children. In fact, tutoring has been known to benefit students and increase positive interaction and improve a child’s confidence, concentration and sense of responsibility. You don’t need to be a qualified teacher or have teaching experience to become a tutor. All you need is patience, passion and willingness to learn. Here’s a guide on how (and why) you can become a private tutor. It’s one of the best ways to make a positive, measurable impact on a child’s academic life.
Volunteer your time and skills 
Volunteering your skills and time is one of the best things you can do for your community and for yourself. In fact, regular volunteering is highly associated improved life satisfaction, according to research conducted by the Department of Work and Pensions and the Cabinet Office. It’s no surprise, then, that almost half (41 percent) of England’s population have volunteered at least once in the past year! There are thousands of organisations, groups and charities that run volunteer programmes throughout the UK; the national volunteering database,, lists over one million opportunities alone. There are also organisations, such as the National ProBono Centre, that enable professionals to utilise their skills for pro bono work. Here are some other resources for finding volunteering opportunities: If you can’t find suitable opportunities in your local community, why not try online volunteering? Organisations like the United Nations are always looking for people who can volunteer their skills and services to projects advancing peace and development. If you have an internet connection, you can volunteer.
Work with children
‘The soul is healed by being with children.’
So said Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Working with children is a great way to improve your own life satisfaction, and it’s also a way to make a real difference in someone’s life. Indeed, working with children has been linked to improved outcomes and positive development, especially for kids in disadvantaged areas. There are so many ways to devote your time to working with kids: you can volunteer at a school, become a music or dance teacher, or join a Scout Group. You could even start a youth group in your local community like Rebecca Moran did. Moran, a mother of two, decided to start a youth group because her community lacked the facilities and groups needed to keep kids off the street. It wasn’t easy, but with the support of the community she was able to create a space for young people to socialise and learn: ‘We...had a local musician come and talk about his career, a graphic designer and a guy that runs a recording studio gave talks too. We also had the local fire brigade come and a dog handler from the police station. It’s helped the youth centre gain some credibility and also stops it from just being a place to hang out – it’s building positive expectations too.’
Start a business that helps the community
Want to make a really big difference in 2017? Start a business that helps your community as well as advancing your career. Running your own business is personally rewarding, but it’s also an effective way to make a huge impact on your local community. Take inspiration from businesses like DashLocker, a New York-based alternative dry cleaning service, Britelives, which helps older people in Ealing, or Andiamo, a UK startup that’s building ‘healthcare solutions for disabled children. Consider opening a franchise if you don’t want to start your own business from scratch. Child-focused franchise businesses, like First Class Learning, give you the opportunity to run a business that benefits children and supports over-crowded schools with the added benefit of support and a proven business model. There’s so much you can do with your own socially-minded enterprise or a franchise, and it doesn’t just benefit the community: making a difference is good for business too.
Invest in other entrepreneurs 
If you can’t start your own business, why not support other entrepreneurs who want to do good? Impact investing is an excellent way to make a difference, and it’s so easy to do in the age of the internet. Put on your venture capitalist hat and explore platforms like Kiva or the Global Impact Investing Network to see how you can put your capital to good use.
Campaign for a cause
Is there an issue or a cause you feel passionate about? Perhaps you’re passionate about the environment, refugees or supporting children in disadvantaged areas? Whatever the case, campaigning for a cause - locally, nationally, or internationally - is an excellent way to make a difference. Join a charity or an organisation you believe in and volunteer your time to hand out flyers, plan events or run fundraisers. A database of charities in the United Kingdom can be found here. Alternatively, you could get involved in an online campaign through organisations like The Big Give. If you really want to make a difference, consider launching your own campaign in your community or online. You can start a petition on or the UK Government’s site       or raise funds for a project on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, leveraging your own networks to raise awareness and funds. There’s no limit to what you can achieve.
Donate supplies to a school or classroom
Donating supplies to a school is one of the most immediate and rewarding ways to make a difference. Items such as books, stationery, uniforms and sporting equipment are sorely needed by schools, especially those in historically underfunded areas. Contact a school in your local area and find out what students need the most, or search the Schools Funding Network to see where you can donate your items.
Become a mentor
According to Eric Parsloe of the Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring, the role of a mentor is to:
‘ and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.’
What better way to make a difference than to help another person develop and maximise their potential? Many workplaces have mentoring programmes that match senior staff members with juniors, and community organisations (like schools, universities and youth centres) have programmes too. There are also mentoring charities, like ReachOut, that connect mentors with disadvantaged young people.
Join a board of trustees 
Another way to make a difference is to use your years of professional experience and expertise as a trustee or non-executive board member for a charity. You can also become a school governor. Many charities and local organisations are run by volunteers who need strategic guidance and support with decision-making. By participating in initiatives like the Step on Board programme, you can use your management skills to improve the performance of a charity and help it deliver better outcomes for the community.
‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’
There’s no reliable documentation to prove that Gandhi ever actually coined this famous quip, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it anyway. The best way to make a difference is to just do something, and hopefully inspire others to do the same. So how will you make a difference in 2017? Leave a comment and let us know, and get in touch if you’d like to learn more about how you can make a difference working with children.