Poorer and middle-class Americans are more likely to donate than are the wealthiest people in the country, according to a report released by The Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2015. Hence the inspiration for writing this article: those without much, or anything, to give, seem to want to give more than those with lots to give.
The holidays are hard on everyone's budget, so don't feel bad if you can't write a big check to your favorite causes this year. Instead, give back without emptying your wallet with these nine great strategies.
1. Volunteer Your Time
One of the best and simplest things you can do to help a charity is give your time. Arguably, non-profits need people more than they need money. Everybody is good at something, and there is a nonprofit out there that’s looking for your skills.
Charities can always use professional services assistance such as people to help with legal work, accounting, graphic design, and writing. But even if you don't have such skills, many organizations just need people willing to give time to support their mission, whether that's being a mentor to a kid looking to get into college, offering free tutoring, or preparing food at a food bank.
2. Clean Out Your Closet
No matter what unwanted item you have lying about your house, there is probably some charitable group that will benefit from receiving it. Anything you can think of, nonprofits will be able to use, from books to old computers. Giving clothes, shoes, furniture, and the like to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Oxfam or a local church's thrift store is an easy way to help out low-income families.
3. Get Crafty
Certain charities need items that you might not readily have at home, such as tiny sweaters for penguins affected by oil spills or booties for premature babies.
4. Give Blood
With fewer blood drives being held during the winter months, blood donations tend to drop this time of year. But the need for blood remains steady; donated blood has a shelf life of only 42 days. All blood types are wanted, especially type O or AB.
5. Swipe Your Credit Card
Yes I know I said “giving without spending”, but what I meant was “without spending any extra”. For every purchase you make, many credit cards will gift a small percentage to the charity. While it's nice that you can give back while making everyday purchases, be aware that the help tends to be minuscule. For example, Bank of America offers a card that gives 0.08% to the Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization, which means you'd have to spend $10,000 to donate $8. You also don't get any tax benefits from using a charity card.
6. Shop Online
AmazonSmile, a program the tech giant introduced in 2013, automatically donates 0.5% of your purchase to a charity of your choice. It costs you and the organization nothing. The only catch is that you must start your shopping at smile.amazon.com; buying through Amazon apps, Kindle, or through affiliate links won't count. You could also do your shopping through GoodShop, which works like AmazonSmile, gifting a small percentage of purchases to the charity of your choosing.
7. Only use healthcare facilities that treat the poor
Even though you may not love your private health insurance plan, at least it’s better than those who can’t afford any insurance. And even worse off than them are the people who are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Unfortunately, so many clinics and urgent cares are driven exclusively by profit margins, keeping their Medicaid-refusing policy secret, rather than by doing the right thing and focusing on people’s health, regardless of financial status. An easy way to give without spending any extra is to only use clinics that accept Medicaid and have other ways to help the less fortunate in your community. To find out whether your local urgent care accepts Medicaid, simply phone them and ask them if they accept Medicaid, as if you’re a Medicaid patient. By only taking your family to clinics that contract with Medicaid, you’re helping them help the poor. Find out more at MedicaidChallenge.com
8. Become an Organ Donor
Each day 22 people die waiting for transplants that can't take place due to a lack of donated organs, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Help reduce that number by registering in your state to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor. By doing so, you could save up to eight lives and help several others through tissue donation. Last year, donors made more than 28,000 transplants possible, and helped another 1 million people receive tissue transplants.
9. Get a Haircut
Several organizations such as Locks of Love and Wigs for Kids will happily take your chopped-off locks to make hairpieces for patients who lose their hair due to medical treatment or a medical condition. You may need to wait a bit and grow your hair out before doing good; the minimum length requirement is 10 inches.