As you continue to cross presents off your holiday shopping list, remember those who are need of your time and generosity, but may not be able to ask for your help. I have put together a list of suggestions that will make a big difference for many people which are free or nearly free.
Let’s face it – times are tough, and that means our ability to give to charity may be somewhat curtailed. But our being frugal doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give back to the causes that matter to us.
I believe that in addition to helping others, being involved in charity also helps us remember what’s really important, and this can only be learned by personal experience. This can be pretty special as you set the example for your family, passing on the importance as a tradition to value always.
If you regularly donate money to charity, I salute you. You are doing something very worthy indeed. If you feel like your budget is too stretched to hand over a chunk of money, there are still plenty of things you can do to give back to the community—for free, and I’ve created a List of suggestions for your generous consideration organized as “Volunteer” followed by “Free Giving”:
Help The Homeless
At a time when warm homes and family gatherings are common, the homeless are left feeling particularly isolated. The National Coalition for the Homeless offers a number of ways for volunteers to combat homelessness by serving food at shelters, building homes, or offering job training. Check out the list of ways you can get involved this year.
Deliver A Meal
Share a meal with a lonely person in need this holiday season when you sign up with Meals on Wheels‘ food-delivery program.
Volunteer For Vets
Find out how you can thank the veterans who put their lives on the line for our safety by visiting the Department of Veteran Affairs.
Visit A Senior
More than 50 percent of senior citizens in nursing homes never get visitors, according to the Senior Source. Bring a sense of family to someone who doesn’t have one, when you volunteer at one of these locations.
Show Some Puppy Love
Get a warm-fuzzy feeling when you volunteer with furry, loyal creatures who are waiting to find the perfect home. Find an animal shelter that needs your help here.
Habitat for Humanity
What could be better than to be able to provide a real home for the Holidays to a deserving family? Habitat For Humanity doesn’t take a break over the Holidays, and there is likely something going on you can plug into locally.
VolunteerMatch strengthens communities by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect. The organization offers more than 99,000 services in the community of nonprofit, volunteer and business leaders committed to civic engagement.
Maybe you are considering volunteering for the first time and simply don’t know what to choose. Or, maybe you want to help, but you think you don’t have the skills to really make a difference. Idealist is for you! Whether you want to teach piano, lay concrete, mentor a businessperson, dig a well, or engineer a community solution, Idealist matches your skills up with their global project listings to best leverage your skills and generosity.
FREE GIFTING OPPORTUNITIES
Even if you don’t have a budget for traditional monetary gifts or the time (or ability) to volunteer, you shouldn’t let the opportunity to make a difference to another pass unattempted. Here are some suggestions on how you can give for free or nearly free that still convey meaning and impact.
Sparked is a great way to volunteer online in your spare time by helping nonprofits meet challenges that they face, based on your interests and skills. This could mean everything from basic graphic design to research to copywriting. For example, if you have experience with social media, you might spend a short while brainstorming for ways to connect with people to help fight cancer. Similarly, download the Give Work iPhone app to help give work to Kenyan refugees and offset costs. It works when companies outsource online tasks to Kenyan refugees (like confirming that certain images are of what they say they are, or picking out spam comments on a blog). Through the app, you can spend a few minutes looking over these apps, performing quality control and training the Kenyan staff, enabling companies to keep outsourcing these tasks to provide work to these refugees.
Make Closet-Cleaning Charitable
Go through your closet to pick out clothing that you know you won’t be wearing again. We recently parted with a cardigan we used to love but haven’t worn in two years—it was hard, but worthwhile when we donated it to a charity that will let someone else get use out of it. For exactly how to go about donating your clothes and how to decide where to give, check out your local yellow pages or Goodwill for the best alternative for your gifts.
Double Your Donation
Get free money for your charitable donations through work—many corporations will match their employees’ donations up to 100 percent, which means double the impact. If your firm offers this, we encourage you to think about taking advantage of it, since it’s a unique opportunity to make your money go twice as far for a cause you believe in. To find out if your firm participates, try searching your internal company website and looking for tabs with names like “corporate responsibility,” “volunteering,” or “community affairs.” You can also try entering your company’s name into Google with the word “Foundation” after it to see whether your company has its own charitable foundation. If nothing else, try contacting human resources to see if they can help you track down special charitable programs.
Unleash the Internet
The internet abounds with ways to give back for free. For the most part, this is possible because advertisers are willing to pay for eyeballs or publicity, so certain websites have sprung up to capitalize on that, and then donate the money to somewhere good. Here are some of our favorite options.
1. Browse For A Cause
Install the Firefox plugin Browse For A Cause, which silently runs in the background and donates a percentage of your purchases to charity. For example, websites like Amazon kick back a small percentage to referring sites (usually 3% to 5%). Browse For A Cause takes that money and donates it entirely to a charity of your choice.
Clothing and accessories company Shabby Apple will donate 5 cents to help women develop their own businesses through Kiva, a microlending resource, for every new person who “likes” them on Facebook.
3. Free Rice
When you have a few spare minutes at work or while you’re procrastinating from something else, play the vocabulary game at Free Rice and donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme for each correct answer. It’s free to you, as it’s funded by sponsors who advertise on the site.
4. The Breast Cancer Site
Donate to worthy organizations like the National Breast Cancer Foundation through The Breast Cancer Site. All you have to do is visit and click a button; you can do this every day to help provide free mammograms to women in need. Click on the tabs at the top to visit similar sites to help end hunger, child health, aid literacy, animal rescue, and the rain forest.
Using a similar model, you can click once per day for additional causes through Care2, which uses advertiser money to fund organizations like Children International.
By no means is this List definitive or ‘all-inclusive.’ There are literally countless other worthy Charities that would welcome your participation, but space here simply will not allow for me to List them all. The point of this List is simply to suggest some of the better-known ways for you to make a real difference this Holiday Season (and throughout the year), and to serve as inspiration for you to discover, consider, and connect with a local charity that is a perfect fit for your generosity and support.
If you made it this far, I want to both Thank You and Congratulate you for considering the idea of giving to charity however you are able, and hope that it is something that fulfills you as much as it will the recipients of your generosity!