Surprisingly Easy Ways You Can Support Charity

by Julie Rains on 13 September 2012 10 comments

Supporting a charity can be surprisingly easy. For example, last week, I helped the Denver Parks & Recreation to improve an inner city park as part of a service project associated with a professional conference. During the course of a couple of hours, the playground area was made safer and the grounds were readied for the fall and winter. The effort was minimal for me, but the impact overall was significant.

You may want to further the mission of a charitable or non-profit group, but don't have lots of time or money to give. If so, lend a hand to those who are orchestrating events, overseeing service activities, and raising money to fund projects and programs. By supporting their efforts, even in seemingly minor ways, you can help make a major difference in the community. (See also: Giving to Charity Is Great. But How Do You Pick One?)

Volunteer

Notice requests for volunteers at home, school, and work. Respond to the needs that inspire you and allow you to reach your goals while helping others.

Participate in One-Day Service Projects

Professional groups, churches, and schools often organize half-day or day-long events that focus on one major project or a handful of ones from which people choose. Your efforts may benefit the local environment, a food bank, or a homeless shelter.

Volunteer Through Your Company

Take advantage of employer programs that encourage volunteerism, place you with local agencies, and give you time off during the workday to serve in the community.

Get Your Family Involved

If your kids (especially teens) want to support a charity through service, accompany them or help make arrangements for volunteer activities.

Sign Up for Special Events

Organizers often need volunteers to assist with event-day activities. You may be able to snag bonuses like free meals or a pass to festivities.

Volunteer Online

Some projects can be done online in your free time. For example, you might help a local charity with online communications or assist with a project through Sparked.com.

There may be a few frustrating moments when trying something new. But volunteering, especially for simple and short-term assignments, can be a meaningful way to get involved with the community, expand your professional network and circle of friends, and develop new skills without overcommitting yourself.

Be Social

Hang out with friends in real life and/or online while supporting a great cause. Consider these ways to socialize for a mission.

Eat Out With Friends

Head for the barbecue, pancake breakfast, or spaghetti supper sponsored by the fire department, neighborhood school, or local civic group. Patronize fund-raising meals with friends to support a good cause without spending too much money. If you'd rather enjoy more elegant surroundings and a fancier meal, dine at restaurants on nights that they donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.

Follow Charities on Social Networks

By following or liking groups on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and sharing their stories, you can help raise awareness of certain causes and specific projects.

Organize Activities Using Social Media

Harness the power of your online connections to help people in the real world. For example, a friend learned about an inner-city agency's need for school supplies on Facebook and posted about her plans to collect items; within a week, she received donations from her friends and helped to make sure that area children had what they needed to go to school.

Don't expect that all of your friends will be as excited as you are to support a charity. Collaborate with those who have similar interests.

Get Rid of Stuff

Be supportive by donating items that are needed by a charity for reuse, repurpose, or sale. Declutter, get a tax deduction, and support a cause. Goodwill is a great destination for many things but also consider these ways of turning your old, extra, or unwanted stuff into treasure.

Contribute to a Yard Sale

Give clothes, household items, etc. to an organization that is holding a yard sale. Watch for announcements requesting donations or hold stuff for groups that host community sales on a regular basis.

Redeem Rewards for Charity

You may be able to redeem or transfer points associated with bank card or shopping rewards programs to support a designated charity. Turn points into a cash donation or help a charity purchase an item (from the rewards catalog) for its operations.

Give Books to the Needy

Many charitable organizations accept books and either distribute them to children and families or sell them to generate funds. Check out this list of groups that can put your book discards to good use, or donate PaperBackSwap book credits to a needy school or military group.

Take Nice Items to a Consignment Shop

Some shops have donor programs in which proceeds can benefit a cause selected by the owner or the charity of your choice.

Before you drop off a trunk-load of discards at a group's office or service site, find out if your favorite organizations can benefit from your items. Sorting through loads of stuff to find one or two things of value isn't worth the trouble for most charities, so be discerning about what you give to help rather than hinder.

Go Shopping

Get the stuff you need and want while supporting a charity. Proceeds might benefit local schools and youth organizations or global efforts to relieve hunger, provide employment for the economically disadvantaged, and clothe children. You can go shopping for a purpose in the following ways.

Snag Bargains at Yard Sales

Because items are donated, the full amount of your purchases (rather than just a small percentage) typically goes directly to the charity.

Patronize Retailers Run by Charitable Organizations

Some charities operate retail locations such as a gift shop or farmers market. Shop where proceeds benefit a cause or charity that you want to support.

Use Discount Coupons

Department stores often sponsor charity days that benefit area groups. Buy a coupon and then get discounts on purchases throughout the day or during specified hours.

Buy Stuff That Kids Are Selling

If proceeds benefit a cause that you are passionate about, then buy the fruit, candy, cookies, popcorn, giftwrap, etc. to support the charitable organization. Sadly, most are overpriced but a few — like the citrus fruit sales — are good deals.

Shop for a Social Mission

Many companies have a social mission that your purchases support, either on a regular basis (like Tom's Shoes or Humble Bundle) or as a special offer (like End Malaria).

Buy Wish-List Items

Many charities have items on their wish lists, which might include baby blankets or basketball goals. If you would rather not give a monetary gift, shop for and then donate wish-list items.

Shopping to benefit charity can mean spending more than you would otherwise. Stuff that kids sell, for example, often costs significantly more than items sold at a traditional retailer. Scrutinize offers so that you can save money and support a great cause at the same time.

Get Active

Support charity fund-raisers by participating in local athletic events. Proceeds from entry fees benefit sponsoring organizations or designated beneficiaries, consisting of local groups or area chapters of national organizations.

Here are some of the events that you may find enjoyable.

Run a 5K

If you’ve never run a race, perhaps contributing to a cause will inspire you to get ready for your first 5K. If you’ve already tackled that distance, consider higher-mileage races that benefit one of your favorite charities.

Take a Walk

Do a charity walk with friends, family, and/or co-workers. Join a team or start your own group.

Go on a Bike Ride

Look for charity rides in the spring, summer, and fall. One-day events will often have a variety of routes from which to choose, ranging from 10 to 100 miles. Multi-day rides are usually more challenging and may require you to raise funds in addition to paying an entry fee.

Participate in a Triathlon

A triathlon may be on your bucket list, so competing in one may accomplish a life goal and support charity.

Do Something Extreme

Extreme events, like this Extreme Hike for Cystic Fibrosis, are put on by organizations that also offer assistance with training and fundraising.

Entry fees are not cheap, often ranging from $25 to $45; that amount typically includes food, drink, festivities, and goodie bags with a water bottle and t-shirt. You may also have to raise a minimum amount of money to participate. But, if you enjoy a challenge, look for events that support your favorite charities.

You don't have to organize a huge project or make a major gift to make a difference. By noticing what is happening in your community and getting involved, you can support charitable causes locally and worldwide.

What is your favorite way to easily support charity?

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Guest's picture
Holly Thrifty

In addition to donating to Thrift Shops consider Women's Shelters for household items. Most shelters will take pots, pans, canisters, bowls and other necessary kitchen items including small appliances in working condition.

Your old towels, pillows, blankets, pillow cases and sheets are welcomed at the local animal shelter--regardless of the condition. They make beds for the animals and the animals take the bed with them when they are adopted.

Old trophies and medals are often accepted by youth organizations who can easily replace parts and reuse.

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for the tips! The Family Services non-profit runs the women's shelter in our area and they tend to want new stuff (mainly toiletries) but it is great to keep up with what your local needs are. I would never have thought about the animal shelter being able to use old sheets, as new or almost new stuff (only) tends to be in high demand elsewhere. Finally, I was wondering what to do with old trophies from my childhood -- what a great way to reuse them and benefit a youth organization.

Guest's picture

All super ideas...there are many ways to donate to charity that go beyond writing a check. The best part is that you feel better about yourself which often outweighs the cost of your time and money that you donate.

The events suggested do not happen without upfront support. One suggestion I can add would be to take an active role in helping plan local events for the charity. By serving on a planning committee, board of directors or even by providing volunteer support the day of the event for check-in, serving food, etc, your suggestions and support will help make an event successful and bring in dollars from more contributors for your favorite charities.

Julie Rains's picture

Hi David, thanks for your mention of the behind-the-scenes work. Some folks may love getting involved in that way though I did want to focus on really easy ways to support a charity.

It does take a lot of volunteers, hours, etc. to put on an event, organize a project, etc. As the strategic planning chair for a 950-member church, treasurer for a women's group, and board member of a high school band boosters org, I know how much time and effort fund-raisers, special events, etc. take. Occasionally, people will say tell me that they feel bad because they don't do as much as I do. But the truth is we need people to do small things (like buy a ticket to an event or bring baked goods or serve as a volunteer for a couple of hours) to help make our projects a success. So, I really appreciate those contributions!

Guest's picture

Great article, some of these are so easy to do and wouldn't cost you anything. When I hear about proceeds going to a certain charity that I'd like to support, I will try to attend the function, or even the dinner night at a restaurant (even if I don't know how much will actually go to the cause). If you don't have extra money to give, these are great ideas.

Julie Rains's picture

Hi Kelly, thanks for sharing your experiences. It's great to know that these ideas have worked for you -- doing things that you may do anyway, having fun, plus supporting worthy causes and groups.

Guest's picture

Volunteering is the best way for me, giving my financial situation, to contribute to the local charities in my area. In fact, a few months ago I participated in a park building project in one of the underprivileged areas in the community. I never how much fun it could be to actually dig holes and pour cement.

Guest's picture
Chris

What me and some of my friends do to raise money for charities is sponsored walks or mountain hikes.

We do not always raise a lot of money but over the last couple years we have raised over £2000.

Julie Rains's picture

Here's a new one that I did yesterday: test drive a car for my son's high school. I drove a Lincoln through a local campaign: https://driveone4urschool.com/user. Also I had to fill out a form and answer a few survey questions. It was a fun way to make money for the school.

Guest's picture
Guest

Also, try Care2.com, Freerice, answer4earth, and Goodsearch. All websites help charities for free.