Natural disasters, disease, war, accidents, domestic violence, addiction, homelessness, animal abuse, the list goes on… We are all affected by the tragic stories that stream into our homes daily via television and the Internet and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. (Walt Disney)
According to crisiscounseling.org, “when tragedies are covered by the media, people everywhere can feel less safe… Helping others can be a good way to feel better and recover.”
Strapped for cash? Here are 10 ways you can give without spending any extra money:
10. Brain Power
How about helping others while improving your brain at the same time? Freerice.com is a game of trivia that donates 10 grains of rice for each answer that you get right. Trivia has never been such a meaningful pursuit!
10 grains of rice seems small, but collectively players have raised over 89 billion grains of rice since the game started in 2007. At the same time, they have improved their knowledge of Geography, Math, Art, and languages (English, Spanish, German, Italian). Talk about win-win!
9. Craft Power
Get crafty with a project guaranteed to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Project Linus provides “love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer blanketeers.” Over 3 million blankets have been distributed since 1995.
If you have some crafty friends, you could also start a private group like the HalfKnits – a small group of friends who made over 100 blankets and 40 sweater sets in their first year alone and are still going strong. They donate their work to local women’s shelters and hospitals as well as orphanages in Russia and Kenya. Not a knitter? I bet there’s a charity that would love to auction off your handcrafted birdhouses or whatever craft is your specialty. (Image: SSK, Artist: Mark Newport, Prints at Greg Kucera Gallery, Inc.)
8. Bio Power
Gifts from the heart… and the scalp…
When you give, you really give a part of yourself when you use your ‘Bio Power.’ You can donate blood, cut off your hair, or even shave your head for a cause. Visit America’s Blood Centers or the American Red Cross for more information about donating blood or platelets- you can also donate blood at most hospitals.
Got some hair to spare? Locks of Love “provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.”
Hand Outs From A Green Thumb
If you have a vegetable garden, you can give out some green without spending any dough through AmpleHarvest.org. According to their website, “One out of six Americans (including a quarter of all kids under six) does not have access to healthy fresh food… The AmpleHarvest.org Campaign is a national effort utilizing the Internet that enables 40+ million Americans who grow food in home gardens to easily donate their excess harvest to one of 3,500 registered local food pantries spread across all 50 states.”
7. Keyboard Power
Let your fingers do the talking, use your keyboard to click and give. GoodSearch supp0rts a cause you select every time you search the web. Other ways to give are at the tip of your fingers when you visit ‘click a day’ websites like CharityUSA or Care2.
CharityUSA lets you select which cause you would like to click on to support (hunger, breast cancer, literacy, rainforests, animals, etc). I just visited their The Hunger Site and my click gave the value of 1.1 cups of food to the hungry. So easy! Care2 lets you log in in and track your impact – each daily click helps to sponsor a child in need.
Visiting websites that donate part of their proceeds to charity is another way to show support (something you are doing right now).
Touching support – there’s an app for that. You can download the free Touch To Give app and then touch a button to give to a cause of your choice every day.
6. Geek Power
Use your powers of geek for good and not evil with worldcommunitygrid.org, which enables you to donate unused computer time to research facilities via grid computing. Or, start a website or blog or use your social media savvy to raise awareness or to get your hordes of followers to donate for you. You could also help low-tech organizations take advantage of the web. For example, you could build a free Squidoo web page (lens) and help them apply for a charity partnership (Squidoo donates half of the lens revenue).
You can even engage in pixelanthropy – the virtual world counterpart to philanthropy. Real world charities hold awareness and fundraising campaigns in Second Life and Wizard 101 among other virtual life games (read about it at socialtimes.com).
5. Cleaning Power
You can clean out your closets, your basement and your garage and donate your used clothing, toys, and books to a local charity. You can also give away your car to Wheels for Wishes (proceeds go to the Make a Wish Foundation) or Big Brothers Big Sisters and you can donate your old eyeglasses to Vision Aid Overseas.
We live in a finite world with finite resources. Although it may sometimes seem quite big, earth is really very small – a tiny blue and green oasis of life in a cold universe. (David Suzuki, Geneticist, Author, Broadcaster)
Don’t throw it out! If there isn’t a charity for your stuff, put it up on a site like freecycle.org and make someone’s day. If you volunteer for a charity, you can also use freecycle.org to collect stuff from other people cleaning out their homes (furnish your headquarters for free, collect blankets and coats, etc).
Sometimes giving is just remembering to be generous with things that you bought (or got)and don’t want. Did you know you can donate stock to many charities, such as Doctors Without Borders? Not using all of your season’s tickets this year? Maybe your giving can start with the family down the street.
4. Muscle Power
Participate in an event that gives your muscles a workout instead of your wallet. You can ride your bike either 50 or 100 miles in the Granite State Quest in New Hampshire this July or walk almost 40 miles in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (events take place across the country from April to October and both men and women are welcome). Another option is volunteering your muscles to make a home for someone with Habitat for Humanity. (Image: Albany Speedo Sprint.)
Fundraising is an extreme sport! (Fundraising Coach, Marc A. Pitman)
3. Business Power
Business owners: giving is also a great public relations strategy, and can even get your company free publicity. It can be as simple as making space at your business for a collection tin for your favorite charity or organizing a food bank or warm coat collection. One Warm Coat is an “easy and convenient way to help people in need in your community. Our goal is to provide any person in need with a warm coat, free of charge.” Sometimes there are tax incentives associated with giving, so check with your accountant. (Image: promo poster, Enclave skate shop, New Haven CT).
Successful charitable fund-raising has much in common with managing a business: It requires leadership, persistence, and creativity. (David Rockefeller Sr., Capitalist and Philanthropist)
2. Purchase Power
Okay, you might be thinking Purchase Power? I thought you said this wasn’t going to cost me any money? By purchase power, I mean rethinking purchases you are going to make anyways (or have already made).
I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution. (Andrew Carnegie, Steel Magnate and Philanthropist)
For example, have you ever considered buying your favorite jackass a donkey for his birthday? You can buy him a real live donkey through Oxfam Unwrapped – a donkey that will go to a needy family in another country. According to their website, donkeys are a real ass-et. Or you can do your shopping through a site like Give Back America, where retailers like Target, BestBuy and Expedia pay a commission when purchases are made through the site- up to 7% of your purchase amount will be donated to a charity of your choice.
Some purchases earn you points in a reward program, which you can donate. You can donate your frequent flyer miles to a variety of charities, such as The Children’s Wish Foundation (Delta) or March of Dimes (Continental). Each airline is different, so check them out.
Or, if you personally have an occasion involving gifts coming up, perhaps it’s time to say ‘I’ve got enough stuff!’ and ask people to donate to a charity instead. You can put a cash box out at the party or ask guests to bring something to donate. For example, if your little girl loves babies but already has enough dollies to open her own store, she might be very excited about collecting gifts for Newborns In Need instead. If you have a sports fan in the family, use a special occasion to raise money for an organization that gives every kid an opportunity to participate in team sports. (I couldn’t find a charity like this, but Big Brothers or Big Sisters might be a place to start. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments and I will add it to this section.)
For an unforgettable trip, consider spending your vacation money and time on a volunteer vacation: a rewarding way to truly connect with a different culture. You could build a house for local residents, teach English, or assist in a medial clinic. Volunteers on a volunteer vacation through the Earthwatch Institute work with scientists to solve environmental problems, while Cross Cultural Solutions offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities from playing with children at an orphan’s school in Russia to teaching basic computer skills at a women’s shelter in South Africa.
1. Hour Power
Brother, can you spare some time? It’s a valuable commodity these days. In fact, all of the 10 items on this list involve your willingness to donate some of your time. Here are some more:
Donation of your professional expertise is a powerful way to have an impact on others. After all, time is money – what’s your time worth? You might be a website designer, auto mechanic, lawyer, hairstylist, or landscaper- whatever you do, there’s quite likely a charity out there that can use your help or advice. Sites like VolunteerMatch allow you to search for volunteer opportunities by location and keywords so that you can find a volunteer position just right for you. Consider your hobbies as well: you can help out while doing something you enjoy. For example, if diving is your hobby, you can join a research team on a marine conservation expedition with Global Vision International.
If you have the time and the people skills, talk to your employer about getting the company involved in charity work. The key here is to make it easy for them to participate. It will help if the charity ties in to marketing goals or is particularly meaningful to the business owners (or the customers) in some way. You might offer to organize a charity event for your employer or to manage a corporate team. It won’t cost you a thing except your time, because you’ll be using their money. Genius!
TopTenz.net just started donating 5% of its profits to a different charity every month. Last month money went to the American Red Cross to support disaster relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific. This month, National Autism Awareness Month, the money goes to the Autism Research Institute for scientific research to improve the methods of diagnosing, treating, and preventing autism. There’s a button on the home page if you’d like to donate money too.