When you're on a budget or paying down debt, donating money to charity can seem like a luxury. While donating money can be a great philanthropic way to support a local cause and people in need, there are other ways to support your favorite charity without busting an already-strained budget.
Keep in mind that it's difficult to help others if you can't take care of yourself. You don't necessarily have to give money that you don't have to make a difference. You can donate your time, your knowledge, and your efforts.
This upcoming holiday season, don't stress if you can't financially donate. Try one of these 7 ways to donate to your favorite charity instead:
Many charities and nonprofits simply don’t have the budget to purchase items they may need like clothing, furniture, kitchen supplies, office supplies, etc. Many charities operate on a bare-bones budget and only buy things that serve the mission, so things that may seem essential to us are just not in the budget.
Consider donating your lightly used items that are in good condition to your favorite charity. The best way to get started is by asking their volunteer or development department what they need.
Donate a Product or Service
In addition to typical supplies, clothing, and furnitures, many charities host annual galas where they auction off special items in order to fund their yearly goals. If you are a small business owner, or have a product or service, consider making an in-kind donation.
This is a volunteering of your product or service, and it allows the charity to raise money without requiring you to financially donate.
You can also provide your services to help a good cause reach their goals and serve the community. If you have a specialized skill such as graphic design, photography, grant writing, social media, or general communications, you can help lend your talents to promote the cause of the charity.
Most charities don’t have formal positions for those skills, or if they do, the positions have a lot to manage and could use some assistance.
Work with the Community Directly
A great way to donate to a charity is through direct service. Reading to sick children in the hospital, helping out at an elderly care facility, fostering pets, and more can serve the community in a wonderful way.
In addition to being a great way to give back, this way of donating is extremely rewarding. You can see the return on your investment of time right away and actually forge relationships with people and causes.
Volunteer Your Time
Many charities are in need of valuable volunteers to reach their programming goals. For example, education-based nonprofits are often in need of tutors, teachers aides, and translators.
Or you could volunteer at a one-time function. Volunteering at events is a great way to get a behind-the-scenes look of how the charity is run -- as well as a great way to get you involved with the community and serve the mission directly.
Organize a Drive
Another great way to donate to your favorite charity is by organizing a drive.
Instead of getting gifts on your birthday, have people make donations to your favorite charity. The nonprofit group Charity: Water has done this very successfully.
You can also consider taking the opportunity to organize a drive around other special moments or seasons. Host a fall donation drive, Christmas Toy Drive, or Mother’s Day drive.
Even simple items, like razors, soap, and toothbrushes for women's shelters or homeless shelters, are much appreciated. These things are easy to take for granted and when you tell your friends how simple it is to help out, most people are more than willing.
Donate Food or Cook a Meal
For many charities that work with homeless or elderly populations, they are often in need of healthy food or a warm cooked meal. If you have a garden, or have an abundance of food, consider donating food or cooking a meal.
If you're in the giving spirit because of the holidays, you can donate your time on Thanksgiving or Christmas to help prepare and serve meals at shelters, soup kitchens, and food banks.
Be sure to check with the charity first as some places have strict rules around food.
Make a Card
Think about how happy you are when you receive a piece of mail that isn’t a bill. It’s a wonderful feeling to get something unique and handwritten.
Consider writing to prisoners, foster care children, or elders that would benefit from the gift of companionship. A simple card with a meaningful note can mean a lot. Change someone’s day for the better with this simple gesture.
As you can see, there are many ways that you can donate to your favorite charities without spending much (or any) money at all. Giving time, talent, and compassion can offer so much to charities -- so next time you are wondering if you should open up your wallet to donate but already feel financially stressed, consider these ways of giving back first.