We’ve all seen the ASPCA commercial with the sad animals and the Sarah McLaughlin song playing in the background and felt horrible that our budgets just don’t allow us donate to all the charities we want to.
Even though those commercials will always pull at our heart strings no matter how many times we see them, there are ways to help the seemingly endless amount of charities without breaking the bank.
1. Don’t try to do everything
If you’re going to donate your time rather than money, it’s important that you don’t exhaust yourself trying to fix every problem you hear about—you’d never get any sleep if did that.
Once you’ve picked one or two causes, volunteer for the organizations in your area that promote them. Do your research, though. Know where the money and resources the organization receives really goes—make sure you’re spending your time on an organization that actually gives back.
When you volunteer, use your skills. If you can build or are just handy with tools, try volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, for example.
2. Work for a nonprofit
If you’ve ever thought of working for a nonprofit, there are plenty out there for you to choose from. Not only would you be giving your time and expertise to a cause you’re passionate about, but you’d be making money too!
If you work for a nonprofit for long enough you may even qualify for student loan forgiveness.
3. Consider joining the Peace Corps or Teach for America
If you can’t see yourself in the nonprofit biz for the long run, try joining the Peace Corps or Teach for America (but make sure you realize that there are some issues with so-called “Voluntourism” before you sign up).
With year-long (and sometimes longer) commitments, you can go anywhere in the world (you can choose some of your preferences) and offer your teaching skills, building skills, or medical skills to those in need.
4. Help those around you
Often, you can do more good by volunteering in your local community than traveling across the world.
Supporting a cause doesn’t have to be as difficult as dedicating your entire life to it. Instead, focus on those around you.
Help out with yard work for your older neighbors. Again, try volunteer for habitat for humanity—they often are building houses right in your own neighborhood. Or volunteer at the local animal shelter (that might help soothe some of the guilt when you see those ASPCA commercials).
Here’s a handy website that can connect you with volunteer opportunities in your area.
5. Go to protests
In today’s political climate, there’s always a protest to go to so get actively involved in the important issues that affect everyone around you!
If protests are a ways away, get a group together and split the costs of the travel. The more the merrier!
Even if you aren’t up for traveling, Facebook is a great way to get connected to local protests. Even the smallest towns are having them!
6. Start a local chapter of the cause you’re interested in
If you’re interested in a certain cause but there isn’t an organization near you, start a local chapter in your community.
This is especially prevalent to college students. It’s easy to start a club, especially one based on a serious cause, at your own university where you’ll have easier access to funding. In my experience, as long as you fill out the right paperwork and talk to the right people, starting your own organization is as easy as finding a group of people passionate enough to take up a cause.
7. Use charity credit cards
Alright, I know this is about not spending money, but for your everyday purchases that you were going to make anyway, try out a credit card that has a charity giving program. American Express has a program that allows you to donate your rewards to the charity of your choice.
The Bank of American World Wildlife Fund Credit Card is another charity card that donates three dollars to the fund for each new account opened as well 0.08 percent of all net retail purchases made with the card.
8. Give blood
The tried and true method of donating when you have no money. The Red Cross is always looking for donations both at their regular locations or at their blood drives.
These drives often happen at offices, malls, and even movie theaters! You can sign up beforehand or just show up. Often they even give away free movie tickets or coupons when you donate.
If you’re able, sign-up at your work’s next blood drive, or, if your business has never had a blood drive, encourage them to. It’s easy to do!
9. Donate your car or electronics
If you’re terrified of needles, there’s plenty of other items that you can donate pain-free.
There are organizations that take your beat-up car, clothes, or electronics. They sell them and give the money to those in need.
Also donate (and shop) at thrift stores which, other than selling gently used clothes at much lower prices, typically have their own charities and even rehabilitation programs associated with them.
Another incentive to donating is you can write off all your charitable donations on your taxes!
10. Use your computer skills
If you’ve got computer skills, they’re valuable these days, even to charities! Hackathons (a technological sprint-type event where programmers meet up and do collaborative computer programming) are often social justice based. Tech-oriented professionals and students get together and use their skills to develop innovative technologies and raise money for certain causes.
The Social Justice Hackathon at Seattle University is just one example. All the individuals involved came together to develop a way to get legal aid to underrepresented communities.
There are plenty of alternatives to donating money to charity if you can’t afford it. In some cases, your time and passion for a cause can be worth just as much as your money.