I spent a few hours this weekend working on a Habitat for Humanity project, and it was such a fulfilling day. It was freezing outside, so I was glad that we were inside the almost-finished condo, painting all day, rather than outside doing yard work.
So many charities will be asking for your funds this time of year, but there are a lot of different ways to give back – without giving cash. Here are my top 7 ways of giving on a budget.
1. Use a charity app or website
Whether it’s ResQWalk (which donates already-given funds to your animal shelter of choice by the amount of miles logged) or Charity Miles, getting outside for your daily run will mean more when every mile you log means more money for your favorite charity. When you make purchases on Amazon that you were going to make anyway, don’t forget to go to smile.amazon.com first, where a percentage of your order total will be donated to the charity of your choice.
2. Clean out
A lot of different charities will pick up donated items, so clean out your closets! You’ll feel better unloading items and knowing that you’re doing so for a good cause. (Check out Vietnam Veterans Association or Epilepsy Foundation to see if they pick up in your area.)
3. Give your time
From food banks to holiday parties to construction projects, you’ll be able to find a volunteer project at this time of year that matches your skill set and comfort level. VolunteerMatch.org is a great place to find volunteer listings in your area.
Did you know – in 2013 about 25% of the US population volunteered for a charity. Employed people volunteer more than unemployed people, and women volunteer more than men! The 20-24 year old age group volunteered the least. (Statistics from Bureau of Labor Statistics)
4. Use your leftover holiday cards (or break out your arts and crafts supplies!)
Send a holiday card to a wounded soldier! Drop off your signed cards at your local Red Cross, and they will be distributed.
5. Send a care package
I can’t imagine being away from home for the holidays, so for the past few years I’ve sent care packages through AdoptAPlatoon. (Packages must be sent by December 15 this year. Check here for details on “Stockings from Santa”.) Have your family members write Christmas cards on Thanksgiving, and include those in your care package to servicemen and women overseas.
6. Host a food drive
Yes, it takes time, but it’s worth it! Host a food drive for your local food bank, animal shelter, or other cause that you feel strongly about (maybe it’s coats for kids or socks for the homeless). Talk to your HR office and see if you can do this at work – and then have a friendly competition for bragging rights to really get people involved! If you aren’t sure how to get started, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’d love to share how I did this at a company of 800 people!
7. Give the gift of giving
Not sure what to buy for your Yankee Swap? What about a gift card that allows the recipient to donate to a charity of their choice? Check out DonorsChoose, where your gift recipient can choose a classroom in need to donate the money for items like books, book bins, Play-Doh, and other items. I’d rather get this than a weird cat calendar 😉