5 Ways to Give Back, Even When Times are Hard
You do not have to neglect important needs if money is tight. Here are five ways to give back during the holidays, even when times are hard.
Creative Holiday Giving
During the holidays, you may want to give money to your church, charity, or special cause. Most people make one-quarter of their charitable donations between Thanksgiving Day and New Year's Eve.
In an uncertain economy -- when many people unemployed, under-employed, or struggling to make ends meet -- how can you give back during the holidays? Between your basic financial needs and ordinary holiday expenses, there may be little money to give to others.
Monetary giving is a rewarding part of personal finance. Fortunately, you do not have to neglect important needs if money is tight this year. There are other ways to give back during the holidays, even when times are hard. Here are five ideas and a bonus.
1. Go Viral
Here is something you can do to give your dollars a boost thanks to the power of the Internet and the generosity of friends: Go viral.
Promote your cause on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. Include a link to your organization's online donor form.
You might be surprised how many of your friends and followers will click through and contribute to the cause.
2. Give Monthly
Instead of making a single, one-time donation, consider smaller monthly contributions. Decide on a gift amount and set up an automatic monthly charge to your debit card or bank account.
While monthly gifts of $5 or $10 may seem too little to make a difference, even small amounts add up over time. By the end of the year, you will have given more money to your favorite charity than the average one-time donation.
3. Donate Food
Now is a good time to clean out your kitchen cupboards. Sort through canned goods for items to donate to your local food pantry or community food drive.
Annual food drives are holiday traditions for many churches, schools, and businesses. While cash is always appreciated, most food pantries welcome healthy staples like canned vegetables, tuna fish, peanut butter, rice, and dried beans.
Volunteering at a homeless shelter is another rewarding way to give back during the holidays. Soup kitchens always need help at Thanksgiving and Christmas. My family served turkey-and-dressing dinners at a central Texas homeless shelter a few years ago, and it was our most memorable Christmas ever.
4. Donate Clothes
Goodwill and The Salvation Army are two good places to donate your gently used clothes and household goods. Be on the lookout for local drives that collect clothes, coats, and blankets for your town's dislocated and homeless.
Don't forget hats, caps, scarves, gloves, and other winter apparel when you are looking for things to donate. People often overlook these essential, cold-weather accessories.
What can you do if your town does not have a Goodwill Donation Station, or you do not have clothes to donate this year? Start a holiday clothing drive at your church, school, or business. Like food drives, they are easy to organize and rewarding to accomplish.
5. Give Blood
Blood donations are in high demand throughout the year, but they are typically down during the hectic holiday season. What better time to give the gift of life than at Christmas?
Many local Red Cross chapters work with churches, universities, businesses, and communities to organize holiday blood drives and collect whole blood. These units are then separated into plasma, platelets, and red blood cells to treat various injuries and illnesses.
Donating blood can have a huge impact on someone's life, and it costs you nothing that cannot be replenished. To learn more about blood donations during the holidays, call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit the American Red Cross website.
What if you could raise money for your school, church, or charity simply by searching the Internet? What if you could support your cause by shopping online or dining at your favorite restaurant?
GoodSearch, GoodShop, and GoodDining are three fundraising programs that let you give to charity by doing everyday things you probably do already.
GoodSearch is an Internet search engine that donates 50 percent of its search revenue to non-profit organizations. That's about a penny per search for your favorite cause. GoodShop gives your designated charity a percentage of each sale at its online shopping mall. GoodDining supports your cause with a percentage of your restaurant check.
When you want to give back but have little or no money to do so, these fundraising programs are a great option. GoodSearch recently added even more ways to raise, including GoodGames, GoodSurveys, and GoodTravel.
The Grace of Giving
When you donate to a church, charity, or special cause, you make a real difference in the lives of other people.
When you give something without expecting anything in return, you experience abundance and blessing. If you are a Christian, giving helps you excel at the grace of giving.
There are also tax advantages to donating money, goods, or volunteer time to charitable causes if the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognizes them as qualified charitable organizations. Donate on or before December 31 and reap the benefits at tax time. That is a tangible, and very welcome, blessing for you when times are hard.
What is your favorite way to give to others during the holidays? Leave a comment below and join the discussion. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your social networks.
© 2011 Annette R. Smith
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