Giving to charity has always been important in my life. But at times, there wasn’t a lot I could give at all. If you wish you had more money – or any money – to support the projects that are dear to your heart, here are a few ways to help others without spending much, if anything at all.
1. Donate Old Stuff
Readers of my blog have sent me a few computers to help me with the computer lab that I run in my Guatemalan village.
To me, an old laptop is like a $200 donation, since that is what a used laptop costs around here. To the donors, it is maybe worth $50, which is about all they would get for it on eBay.
You can donate old clothes to local charities, books to your local library, and uniforms to your high school. Your trash may be someone else's treasure.
2. Help Locally
I like to see the direct results of my charitable giving. When I give to a major NGO, I feel like my donation will not have such a big impact, when you consider their overhead (20 to 30 percent for CARE, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), or Oxfam).
There is probably a smaller, more local charity near you that needs your help just as much. Get in touch with your city council or local church to find out.
3. Help Others by Giving Your Time Instead of Money
Your time can be just as valuable as cash donations. I have had friends get turned down from big charities because they get too many requests from volunteers, but again, your community surely would appreciate your help.
In short, you can give to charity without ever “giving” to charity in the traditional sense.
Read a story to kids at the library. Clean a park with a bunch of friends. Tutor a high school student who can't afford private lessons. It can be a one-off or a regular thing.
4. Help Others Without Money — Give Your Skills Instead
My grandpa is the accountant for various nonprofits. He could be manning the soup kitchen, but instead, he saves these organizations more money by offering skilled labor.
Your language skills can be used to help migrants learn English or fill administrative forms. Med students can give a hand at blood banks. And if you are already a professional, pro-bono work is a great way to help people in need.
5. Reach More People
I used to go play the piano at a retirement home, and I played the organ at church. One hour of my time was beneficial to several dozen people.
When I started my education project, I gave scholarships to two promising students. Once they graduate, I plan on allocating the money that used to go to their tuition to giving 100 kids an hour or two of computer class per week instead.
6. Amplify Your Donation
I made a website for a nearby orphanage in Guatemala. For $20, I bought the domain for two years. I then hosted it for free under my other blogs' hosting plan, and two hours of my time got them a website they would have to gather $300-plus of donations to pay for.
My $20 donation had a 15-fold impact.
If you have a local business — or even an employee discount — you can provide goods to the charity, be it things they will use or things they can give away as prizes during their next fundraising event. You can even donate body parts to those who need them.
7. Look for Tax Breaks
You will need to give to a qualified organization, but you can even get a tax credit for items you give to charity, rather than just money. (Read more about how it works on the IRS website.) If you take into account the tax credit you will get, which depends on your tax bracket, then you can make a slightly bigger donation.
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8. Have People Donate in Your Name
One charity I like is Charity: Water. They supply clean water in remote areas. If you don't have the money to help others yourself, you can “donate your birthday” and ask friends to send donations instead of gifts. Even the ones who would just buy you a drink can donate five bucks. Another thing to like about Charity: Water is that they use 100 percent of donations on projects. Their overhead is sponsored by companies.
9. Offer Temporary Help
Maybe you think those tips are great if you have time to give to charity. But if you don’t have much time, you can still help once in a while. You could provide a room for a week to a teenager in need while your community finds a more permanent shelter. You might take in rescue dogs before they get adopted. Or waitress at a fundraiser…
If you get in touch with a cause that you like, there will likely be a spot for you to give a hand.