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Dear 3Rivers: How Can I Give to Charity Without Spending Money?

Dear 3Rivers,

For years, I've wanted to donate money to a few of my favorite charities, but it just hasn't been within my budget to give away a large sum of money to help out - especially around the holidays. How can I support a cause without going broke? Any ideas?


Hoping to Give

Free Ways to Give to Charity | Image source: / Photographer: Lemon Tree Images


We can guarantee you're not alone in wanting to donate to a good cause, but feeling helpless due to a lack of funds. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternative ways to give to charity, this season and all throughout the year, that won't leave you for broke.

Think Small

Don't give up on the idea of donating money completely. You might think only a $100 or $500 donation (or more) will suffice, but in reality, non-profits can benefit from every tiny bit of monetary aid that comes their way. Consider setting aside $5, $10, or $20 a month and donating this smaller amount throughout the year. Giving $10 a month will result in $120 over the course of a year. Or set aside that smaller amount in a savings account dedicated entirely to the cause(s) you plan to donate to, let it gain some interest, and pull it out to give away once a year. Don't feel obligated to donate a huge amount of money, that will wipe out your savings, at the end of the year.

Also keep in mind that monetary donations to non-profits often result in tax deductions.

Donate Your Time

Many non-profits will be more grateful for your time than cash donations. Contact your favorite charities and ask them what volunteer opportunities are available - then sign up for the option that works best with your schedule. For some, this may mean volunteering a few hours each week to a cause, and for others, it might be one Saturday morning a month.

All Hands on Deck

Still stuck on the idea of gifting a large monetary donation, or a donation containing items like furniture, clothing, or canned goods? Then don't go it alone. Get your co-workers, friends, family, and social networks on board to help raise money (or other donations) for a charity. Consider taking it online, utilizing sites like GoFundMe or bring about the idea of replacing holiday gifts with donations to a cause.

Ask your HR department if your employer will match employee donations for charity. Some do, and that means that once your workplace raises $1,000 for charity and your employer matches 50% of that, you've got $1,500 to give.

Donate Gently Used Items

Most non-profits don't require your donations to be brand new. Take a weekend to clean out your closet, kitchen, basement, and attic and round up any gently used items you no longer use. Items to keep in mind: clothing, kitchenware, sports equipment, toys, books, music, and movies.

Spread Awareness

Spreading awareness about a cause is one of the most powerful things you can do to help keep it going. Ask the charity you plan to help if they have any literature, social media accounts, or an e-newsletter that you can use to get your friends, family, co-workers and social networks engaged. Then do your part, once a week or once a month, to encourage others to support and get involved.

Play Games + Go Social

Sites like Free Rice will donate to a cause simply for your time spent playing an online game. And those like Social Vibe help you raise money for your favorite causes by completing brand activities on your social networks, in which the sponsored brands will donate money.

Browse + Shop Online

Some sites, advertisements, and plug-ins will donate to charity simply as you browse the Internet, click their ads, or make an online purchase. For example, Browse for a Cause, Amazon, and Kiva will donate a percentage of your online purchases to charity and The Breast Cancer Site and Care2 will donate when you click a special button on their sites.

Gift Your Skills

Check out options like Sparked, where you can help non-profits reach their goals by helping them to meet the challenges they often face due to a lack of financial support. Non-profits often need copywriters, graphic designers, researchers, and social media experts to help them start up and maintain their efforts.

We hope you feel a little more inspired knowing that there are plenty of ways to give to your favorite causes without breaking the bank! Remember, every little bit counts - whether it's time or money.



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