How to Support Your Favorite Charity on a Budget
Charitable giving is more popular than ever. Donations reached $373.3 billion in 2015, according to a report from Giving USA, the highest total the group has recorded.
It’s increasingly easy to give to causes you support, even on a budget. Here are a few ways you can express your goodwill without breaking the bank.
Give Your Time
Nonprofits don’t only need money. They can also use your time and talent.
It doesn’t take much work to find a cause that can use a helping hand. National organizations like VolunteerMatch and United Way post volunteer opportunities from all over the country. You can narrow the search by filtering cause, location, charitable group, and activity type.
You can volunteer at a one-time event or make an ongoing commitment. A variety of groups, from health clinics to environmental groups to animal rescues, need regular help.
Some volunteers don’t even need to leave the house. Many charities need virtual volunteers to help design websites, translate, or teach online classes. Volunteer websites often have a special section for virtual volunteering opportunities. The United Nations website onlinevolunteering.org also lists dozens of ways to help, all from your computer.
Run for a Cause
Nonprofit organizations make more than $1 billion from road races each year. There are tens of thousands of races in the U.S. each year, and many are either sponsored by or support charitable organizations with their race fees.
Both Active.com and RunningintheUSA.com list thousands of races, making it easy to find one nearby. Your race fee goes toward the costs of holding the race and also to any partner nonprofits.
Some organizations ask participants to raise a certain amount to participate in races. That’s the case with elite events like the TCS New York City Marathon. If you aren’t fast enough to meet the qualifying times, you can join the race team of a nonprofit partner and commit to raise a certain amount to participate in the race. These amounts can be high, but ideally participants get friends and family to chip in.
You can also use your regular exercise to help. Charity Miles, a nonprofit, has an app that donates money to the charity of your choice based on how many miles you walk, run, or cycle. You can earn up to 10 cents a mile for charity while walking or running and 25 cents a mile while biking.
Give Your Stuff
Money isn’t all you have to give. Many charities also accept clothing, furniture, toys, shoes, books, and other household items. These things may hold value for someone, even if they’ve been hidden away in your garage for years.
Some charities, including Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Vietnam Veterans can even come to your house to pick up your donation, depending on where you live. Visit their websites to schedule a pickup.
Thinking of selling your car? If you don’t think you’ll need the money from the sale, or if you don’t think it’s worth anything, consider donating it to your favorite charity. Many accept vehicle donations and will happily pick up your car. Usually the charity will auction it off and send the donor a certificate indicating the value of the sale.
If you can’t part with any of your earthly possessions, you can still give blood. The American Red Cross holds blood drives all over the country. Hospitals are always in need of more donations.
Blood isn’t the only piece of yourself you can give. Locks of Love will take hair donations to make wigs for children who lost their hair due to illness, while the National Milk Bank gives breast milk to babies in need.
Do you have any events coming up in which you expect to receive gifts? You can ask your loved ones to redirect their generosity to a charity of your choice.
This has become particularly common for funerals. Obituaries frequently ask for donations to charity in lieu of flowers.
The same request can be made at more joyous events. Wedding websites like The Knot and Zankyou let couples include charity funds in their registries. The Knot will also donate to the charity of your choice for every gift purchased through their site. In addition, websites like JustGive and SoKind Registry allow users to create registries for a variety of events that encourage charitable donations.
Give a Little at a Time
If money is tight, tackle charitable donations like you would approach paying down debt and set aside what you can each month. Many charities accept recurring donations. Even if you can only give a few dollars a month, charities find regular contributions valuable because they’re a steady source of income. Plus, all those small donations can add up over a few months. When charities say every little bit helps, they actually mean it.
Even spare change can go a long way. You can use an app like Bstow, which rounds up purchases you make on your credit or debit card to the nearest dollar and donates the change to the charity of your choice.
Got a bunch of physical coins lying around? Coinstar machines allow you to donate to a selection of charities, including the American Red Cross, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Humane Society.
Also check near the cash register of your favorite deli or coffee shop. Aside from the tip jar, there might be another bin collecting money for a local cause. Chances to give are everywhere.
Credit Card Points
Several different rewards credit cards will let you donate points and miles to a charitable organization of your choosing. You can contact your issuer or read the fine print on your card agreement to see what donation options are available with your particular cards. If you don’t already have a card that allows this, here’s a list of some credit cards that let you give points to charity.
With so many convenient ways to give to charity available, it’s no wonder that giving has reached record levels. There’s no a need for a major financial outlay in order for a donation to be meaningful, nor is there a need to go far outside of your normal routine in order to find ways to contribute. With a little research into the options, anyone can find a way to help—and even small donations can help make a big difference in the lives of those in need.
Myles Ma is a writer and editor at Credit.com. Before joining Credit.com, he worked as a journalist for the Star-Ledger covering northern New Jersey. He’s also covered his home state for Patch.com and the Jersey Journal. He graduated from The College of New Jersey (notice a pattern?). He is adjusting to writing about topics outside of the Garden State.