5 Ways to Give Back, Even When Times are Hard
Creative Holiday Giving
As the holiday season approaches, you may be thinking about giving money to your church, favorite charity or special cause. Most people make one-quarter of their annual charitable donations between Thanksgiving Day and New Year's Eve.
But, in an uncertain economy -- with so 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 holiday expenses, there may be little left over to give.
While monetary giving is a rewarding part of personal finance, you don't have to disregard 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 examples.
How will you give back this holiday season? Tell us about it in the comments section.
1. Go Viral
Here is something you can do to give your dollars a boost -- thanks to the power of the Internet, your mobile phone, and the generosity of friends: Go viral.
Promote your cause on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. Include a link to your favorite organization's online donor form.
You just might be surprised how many of your friends and followers will click through and contribute to the cause.
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2. Give Monthly
Instead of making a single, one-time donation, consider making smaller monthly contributions. Decide on a gift amount and set up an automatic monthly charge to your debit card or bank account.
The typical monthly gifts of $5 or $10 may seem like too little to make a difference. But 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 the time to clean out your pantry and kitchen cupboards. Sort through the canned goods for items to donate to your local food pantry or community food drive.
Many churches, schools and businesses hold annual food drives that are holiday traditions. 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 or soup kitchen is a rewarding way to give back during the holidays, and it won't cost you a dime. Soup kitchens always need help at Thanksgiving and Christmas. My family served turkey-and-dressing dinners at a central Texas homeless shelter four years ago, and it was our most memorable Christmas ever.
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4. Donate Clothes
Goodwill and The Salvation Army are two good places to donate your gently used clothes and household items. Also, be on the lookout for local drives that collect clothes, coats and blankets for your community's homeless population.
Don't forget hats, caps, scarves, gloves and other winter apparel when you're looking for things to donate. People often overlook these accessories, but they are essential in cold-weather climates.
What if your town doesn't have a Goodwill Donation Station, or you don't have clothes to donate this year? Start a holiday clothing drive at your church, school or workplace. Like food drives, they are easy to organize and rewarding to accomplish.
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5. Give Blood
Blood donations are in high demand throughout the year, but donations 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. The units of blood are then separated into plasma, platelets and red blood cells to treat various injuries and illnesses.
This type of giving can have a huge impact on another person's life, and it costs you nothing that cannot be replenished.
To learn more about blood donation opportunities during the holiday season, 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 favorite 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 donate to charity doing everyday things you probably do already.
GoodSearch, an Internet search engine, donates 50 percent of its search revenue to more than 100,000 non-profits. That's about a penny per search for your favorite cause. GoodShop, an online shopping mall, gives your designated charity a percentage of each sale. 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, the GoodSearch fundraising programs are a great option.
The Grace of Giving
When you donate to your favorite cause or charity, you make a real difference in the lives of other people. When you give without expecting something in return, you experience abundance and blessing. If you are a Christ follower, giving helps you excel at the grace of giving.
And remember: There are tax advantages to donating money (and volunteer time) to charitable causes, if the organization is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a qualified charitable organization. Donate on or before December 31 and get more money in your pocket at tax season. That's a tangible, and very welcome, blessing during these tough economic times.
- God's Word in Action: Serving the World with Compassion and Justice Thomas Nelson and World Vision have joined together to launch God's Word In Action. The campaign inspires Christians to serve the world through compassion and justice.
- Old Parking Meters Help the San Antonio Homeless The City of San Antonio converted 25 retired parking meters into donation stations to help the city's homeless population. Read more about this Haven of Hope initiative.
Copyright © 2011. Annette R. Smith. All rights reserved.
Published: October 28, 2011 / Modified: December 25, 2012.
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