I hear from people who are struggling with money that one of the things that bothers them the most is their inability to financially help their favorite nonprofits and charities. The view that the only way to help these organizations is through a monetary donation is one that is far too prevalent. I hope this perception can change because there are so many ways that it’s possible to help nonprofit organizations without having to give money. And while a nonprofit is never going to turn down a monetary donation, many times there are other things that you can do which are far more valuable.
Here are a number of options that you might want to consider which can make a positive difference to a nonprofit organization that doesn’t involve giving a cash donation:
This is something that I have done with several small, local nonprofits that I really like, and it has turned out to be a wonderful experience for all. I simply went in and asked the nonprofits to make me a list of the top five things they really needed. Once I had the list, I went onto FreeCycle and Craigslist and placed ads asking if anybody had the things the nonprofits needed. If they did something that they were willing to donate to the charity, I asked them to do it directly. By simply taking a few hours of my free time, I was able to broker deals for many (but not all) the things that the nonprofits really needed. The best part was that it didn’t cost me a penny, it didn’t cost the nonprofits any of their valuable money, and for the people who had things that they no longer needed, they received a tax deduction. By being a facilitator to get important things that the nonprofit needed to run more efficiently, but didn’t have the time to do on their own, I was able to really make a significant difference. You can do the same.
In many ways, your time can be much more valuable than any monetary donation that you can give. Most nonprofits have a million things to do, but never enough people to do them all. By volunteering your time, you can help the nonprofit better reach their stated goals. Many people balk at this idea because they assume that this means that they’ll need to physically be at the nonprofit to do this. This shouldn’t be something that stops you. Contact the nonprofit and tell them that you want to help, but aren’t able to physically be there. Due to the wonders of the Internet, many will still have a variety tasks that you can do to help them out from home.
In the same way as your time is of great value, your skills may be more valuable than your money, and you may not even realize it. Nonprofits are always on the lookout for people who have special skills, and even if your skill set doesn’t seem to be applicable, you never know. If you are a decent handyman, doing small repairs around the nonprofit office can mean that the nonprofit doesn’t have to pay somebody else to do it. This allows them to save money that can then go toward their stated goals. You can contact the nonprofit directly and ask if they have any use for your skills, or you can search sites like VolunteerMatch which will match your skills with organizations looking for them.
One of the simple things that you can do that most people never consider is to clean. I have done this a number of times and it’s amazing what a good cleaning can do for staff morale. The people working at a nonprofit are usually so busy doing the things that need to get done that their office space often gets very cluttered and dirty. Volunteering to go in and clean common areas at the nonprofit organization can really reenrgize the workers there. It’s a wonderful way to say “thank you” to all the hard work that the everyday volunteers and staff do while not forcing you to make a long-term time commitment toward the organization. It’s a simple thing that anyone can do which will almost always be appreciated.
Click Your Mouse
There are a number of websites where all you need to do is click a button with your mouse once a day to help a number of different causes. The concept is pretty basic. By clicking on a button, you’re taken to a page with a lot of advertisers on it. Each time a person clicks through, the advertisers pay a small amount to be seen. While each click is worht only a small amount, when all the clicks are all added together, it can add up to a substantial sum. It’s a great way to make a contribution to a cause such as fighting hunger (there are also links in the header on the site to help animals, veterans, literacy, the rainforest, better child health, prevent autism, and prevent breast cancer with a click). It only takes a few seconds a day to do this, so it’s something that even someone with the busiest schedule can do.
Another simple way to get the word out about any organization that you support is to place a link to their website in the signature of your email. It only takes a few minutes to set up and once done, you share it with everyone that you email. If you are a member of an online forum which allows signatures, you can place a link to the nonprofit site of your choice there as well. Each time you start a topic or reply to someone in the forum, the link will show up to the nonprofit that you support at the end of your comment. Both of these are simple ways to help advertise the cause that take very little time, but let others know about it that might not otherwise ever hear about it.
Another great way to help nonprofits you support is to make a video about them. More and more people search sites like YouTube (while most people don’t think about it, YouTube is actually one of the largest search sites on the Internet) to look for information through video much like they do with standard searches search engines like Google for articles. It’s a great way to get information out about nonprofits that you support that allows you to show the emotion you have that may not be apparent with links and articles. Making videos can be a fun and interesting way to do something positive in your free time for the organizations that you support.
There are actually a number of ways that you can help nonprofits through Facebook. The most obvious is that you can post and share information about those causes that you support so that all of your friends and family can see them. You can also comment and like posts by the nonprofit on their Facebook page (as well as their website) so more people can learn about it. A less obvious way is to look for corporate sponsors that are also helping the organization. Some will have drives where they will donate a certain amount of money to a specific charity for every like that their sponsorship page gets.
Much like Facebook, Twitter offers a couple of opportunities for you to get the word out about those causes you support. Simply tweeting about them to all of your followers can help. Retweeting tweets from the nonprofit can also be a big help. There may also be opportunities to tweet where the tweet will be worth a certain amount of money to the nonprofit through corporate sponsorship drives. None of these takes a whole lot of time, but it helps get the word out and promote those causes which are important to you.
With so much of the emphasis on the Internet and new media these days, it’s important not to forget old media newspapers. Taking the time to write an editorial to your local paper praising the nonprofit, explaining all the positive things that it does, and letting people know how they can support it is a great way to get the word out. This is a wonderful way for a nonprofit to get some unexpected publicity, and possibly donations from those people who want to give to a good cause. Writing an editorial can be a simple, yet effective way for people in your local community to learn about a nonprofit they may not have heard about before.
There are now a number of charities and nonprofits which offer branded credit cards. These credit cards work very similar to cash-back credit cards where a small amount is given back with every purchase that is made. The difference is that instead of the money going back to you, it goes directly to the nonprofit of your choice. This can be a great way to give a little extra something to nonprofits you support each month buying the things you would normally buy. The main thing that’s important is that you make sure to pay off your credit card balance in full every month or this strategy isn’t helping anyone but the credit card company.
If you have a lot of stuff stored in closets, the garage, or the attic and you’ve been thinking about getting rid of some of it, you can give a percentage of the price you sell it for to a charity of your choice. eBay has a nonprofit support system called GivingWorks which allows you to give a portion of your sale on eBay to a specific nonprofit. Not only are you able to get rid of stuff that you no longer need, you’re able to give some of the extra money to the charity of your choice while earning a little extra money for yourself as well. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Another way to get word out about nonprofits and charities that you support is to create a blog and write about them. This can give information and updates to your friends and family, and also to all those who happen to find your blog through search engines. Setting up a blog is free with many platforms, and it can even be monetized so that you can give any money that you earn to the charity if you so desire.
Chances are that you use Google when you do online searches, but you can also do searches through different sites that give a portion of their earnings to charity. Search sites such as GoodSearch and SearchKindly pay a small amount to nonprofits with every search that you do. Since you’re already going to be doing these searches anyway, this is a way to help nonprofits that you support at the same time.
If you’re like most people, you probably have an old mobile phone sitting in a desk drawer somewhere in your house. Even after you’re done with your phone and you’re no longer going to use it, it still has value. If it’s still a fairly recent model, it can be resold on the secondary market. Even outdated phones that nobody would want to use contain precious metals that can be stripped out which still makes the phone worth money. Sites like Phones4Charity collect these old phones and give a small amount they earnt to nonprofits. If you have old phones lying around your house that you’re never going to use, donating them can be a great way to help a nonprofit.
If you are looking for a way to help local nonprofits, you might want to do a closet cleaning. The clothes that you no longer wear can mean money for the causes you support. Many nonprofits collect clothes as part of their mission and also to sell to raise money. There are a growing number of consignment shops where a portion of the profits go to help local nonprofits. If one of these aren’t available in your area, your quality clothing can be taken to regular consignment shops where, when sold, the money can be given to the nonprofit of your choice.
There is a good chance that you have more than a few gift cards stuck in drawers that you haven’t used. Instead of leaving them there to be forgotten, they may be useful to some of the nonprofits you support. Gift cards to well know retail stores will always be welcome because they will defray the cost of purchasing items the nonprofit needs. Even gift cards for things that may not seem to be related might be of use for a raffle or as an incentive to the workers. The best way to find out is to call the nonprofit and ask if they would have any use of it.
There are a large number of websites and blogs on the Internet which show you how to get things for free, or at greatly reduced prices, using coupons and other promotions. While there is a learning curve, it’s not nearly as difficult as it might first seem to be. Even though I absolutely despise coupons, I was able to learn enough to eat well on less than $1 a day for 100 days and create a Thanksgiving meal for six for under $1 total, all while donating extra food to local food banks. Taking the time to learn how to do this will give you an opportunity to get a lot of things that you used to purchase for free, while also making donations to local nonprofits.
If you already do a lot of your shopping online, why not help a nonprofit you like at the same time? Browse for a Cause offers a Firefox plugin that will earn money for the nonprofit of your choice when you shop online. There are a number of shopping portals where anything that is purchased through them will help a specific cause. While it doesn’t make sense to buy anything more than you usually would, if you were going to make the purchase online anyway, you can help a nonprofit in the process.
No matter which way that you become involved with a nonprofit you support, the mere fact that you become involved will help. Being involved, you’ll automatically share your experiences to others through casual conversations and daily random meetings. This sharing can go a long way to gain more local support for the cause.
In addition, getting involved with a nonprofit you believe in is a great way to make contacts with like-minded people who can eventually lead to employment doing something that you truly love to do. This is by no means a guarantee, but when you put yourself among people who have similar interests and are seeking the same goals as yourself, it’s a great way to meet contacts in an area where you are passionate. For this reason alone, I highly encourage anyone to go beyond writing a check and figure out other ways they can help the causes they support.
(Photo courtesy of Jamiesrabbits)