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Creative Ways to Donate to Charities

Updated on November 5, 2009

So Many Charities-So Little Cash

It's that time of year when I go to my mailbox and it is stuffed with charities asking for donations. I feel a little bad because I can't donate to all of them. I'd love to be able to write a $1,000 check to each legitimate charity that comes a'knockin', but I can't. If you are like me, and you like to help others, but feel the pinch of a limited income, there are things you can do that help other people tremendously without spending your family's food budget. When I started researching this article I didn't realize just how many opportunities are out there. Just type "what can I donate" into your search engine, and you will have ideas for the next year. Here are the ones that jumped out at me:

1. Donate a Car.
If you have a clunker that you can't sell and would like a nice tax write-off, there are a number of things you can do with it. Type, "donate my car" into your search engine for a huge list. is a program that is run by AmericaCan! to raise money for at risk kids and provide them with funds for education. American Can! uses no third party companies to sell their cars for them, so 100% of the net proceeds goes to this terrific program. You can get a tax write off and give a disadvantaged child the chance for a brighter future. or 1-866-835-KIDS.

Habitat for Humanity-Cars for Homes program. You get a tax deduction and Habitat uses the funds to build homes and provide low-interest loans to people who need help, but don't need a handout. The people who receive homes through Habitat for Humanity are required to donate a certain number of hours to help build their new home and to help someone else realize home ownership.

2. Donate your used eyeglasses
Just recently I noticed my eyeglass prescription doesn't work as well as it used to. I take for granted going to the eye doctor for a new pair of glasses. Many people in developing countries have no access to eyewear and go through life unable to see their loved ones, or read a book. Imagine having poor vision that is correctable, but being unable to afford the three months' salary it would cost. Now imagine someone giving you a pair of eye glasses for free. There are many organizations such as The Lions Club, Goodwill Industries and LenseCrafters Stores that take donated eyeglasses and send them to develping countries where the glasses are categorized and matched with someone who has that particular prescription. What may be an ugly, out-of-style piece of junk in a drawer to you, could mean vision to a child so he/she can learn to read.

Check out to be inspired. Someone in Africa could someday be wearing your old eyeglasses and seeing his children clearly for the first time. For the Lion's Club site: They also collect used hearing aids and laser and inkjet cartridges.

3. Donate Prescription Drugs

Obviously this subject isn't without pros and cons and is governed by very strict laws. But, some states allow drugs to be donated if the patient has passed away, or if their prescription has changed. Rather than just flushing the drugs down the drain, sometimes they can be sent to someone who can't afford the drugs they need. Every state has its own regulations and laws. You will have to contact your state government for their policies and laws conserning prescription drugs. Some things to research:
-Does my state even allow prescription drug donations? Do they allow donations if the drugs are to be sent overseas for charity organizations?
-Is my prescription ineligible if it is already opened/tampered with?
-Is there a doctor, hospital, hospice or medical clinic that has a program for prescription drug donation/disposal?

If your drugs are not donatable, it is recommended that you do not flush them down the toilet as is the common practice. Some feel that this is contaminating our water supply with trace amounts of medicines that can adversly affect some people. It is recommended that you crush the pills and dispose in a plastic bag with used coffee grounds so they are unrecognizable/unusable to anyone who might go through trash looking for prescription drugs. Liquid drugs should be poured into clumping kitty litter and thrown away, also.

I know this is a difficult donation program and it may not be available to you. But just think of the millions of people who could be helped by such a program! Drugs are so expensive. Perhaps people in developing countries could get the blood pressure, thyroid or heart medicine that they need and can't afford!

4. Donate your Time. Are you a recent empty nester? Widow or widower? Your time and experience is so valuable! There is someone out there who can use it!

-Teach kids to garden. Perhaps your garden is the envy of the neighborhood. Share your knowledge with someone who thinks apples grow in boxes at the grocery store. Find a private or charter school who may be short on funds and would love this type of program. Find a homeschooling group that would benefit from your knowledge. And, you will get help in your garden!
-Teach kids to sew/do crafts. Offer a free class to a homeschooling group and share your talent with a needle or paper and paint. You will meet new people and spread the joy of your art.
-Volunteer at a hospital or Hospice. They are always looking for dependable people add to their volunteer staff.
-Volunteer to read to children at the library. There's nothing more heartwarming than to read to a child. They really get into it and you will be the center of attention!
-Volunteer to vist/read to the elderly. Many elderly no longer can read because of failing eyesight and would love to hear you read the paper or a novel to them. Start a card game. It is intellectually challenging and a fun way to keep them sharp.

5. Donate Used Books-Find organizations who distribute them to prisons, other countries, low income libraries, or poor children.  To some people, books are the only way to see the world outside their four walls.

6.  Donate Used Magazines to Waiting Rooms--Don't throw away those back issues to Redbook or Reader's Digest!  I have been in waiting rooms that have no reading material at all and when you are waiting for the results of a test you are dreading, a magazine can make the time a little more bearable.

7.  Donate Used Suitcases to foster kids who have only garbage bags to transport their worldly belongings.  Check out and find out what a huge need there is. Start a suitcase drive in your city and make a difference with those duffle bags you never use.

8.  Do you clip coupons? If you can get food that you would never eat for free or at a great discount with a coupon, buy it anyway and donate it to a food bank! Diapers, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, anything you can get really really cheap is worth it because no one should be without those things, you know what I mean?

9. Used Computers
Computers are tricky in my opinion. They can contain personal and financial information that you don't want anyone else to have access to. They are obsolete so quickly and getting so cheap, very few people even want the hassle of an old one. It's not easy to find a place to donate them and keep them out of the landfills but I found a couple of options: They have a list of organizations that may be interested in your clunky desktop.
-Some computer stores (locally owned) will take donated towers and monitors, refurbish them and sell them.
-Ask your school if they take donated computers. Perhaps they have a program that donates them to needy families. Just make double sure you have deleted all personal/financial information before you donate it to anyone.

10. Used Toys
Before you drop off that old Buzz Lightyear at the thrift store, check out: for some great ideas of where you can drop them off. For example, battered women's shelters need toys for the children that stay there.

11. Used Clothes
Did you know Americans discard two quadrillion pounds (two with fifteen zeros at the end) of used clothes and other textiles into the landfills each year? (source: Your clothing can make a huge difference in someone's life. Women who are trying to get back into the workforce after years at home may not have the resources to purchase business clothes. Your old suits and slacks could help change a woman's life just by being able to go to job interviews!

Formal gowns, wedding dresses, maternity and business attire are all in great demand for uses you may have not thought of (like burial clothing for children whose families can't afford anything beautiful). If you want to make a difference, perhaps you can donate to specific charities you believe in.

I am a passionate reuser. There is so much waste all around us. We can make our lives better by extending the life of our landfills and improve the lives of others' at the same time. Sometimes it doesn't take cash. Sometimes it takes looking at what we have in a different way and giving it to someone who can turn it into something so much bigger.

Please check out my website: for more ideas on reuseing items and send me your ideas so I can share them with others!


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Engllish seems to be getting more and more irpamtont these days because we live in a global integrated world and communication between foreign countries has become so frequent and necessary. Besides, people in general are attending English courses to get better marks at school, better jobs or just for fun.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      7 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      What wonderful and creative suggestions! People do not realize the many ways that they may donate to a charity.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      of course, if ppl want to donate funds -- cash funds -- that recycle -- come back to you to be used to help the next person you choose to help, check out located in SanFrancisco -- but reaches people all over the world. Receives donations from people in over 200 countries helps people in MANY countries to get THEMSELVES out of poverty -- on the theory of 'if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime' -- I think this program teaches people to build a boat to go fishing. Co is Reviewed by Money Magazine!


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