As paradoxical as it may sound, you can make a meaningful donation without spending a dime. Monetary donations may be the most popular and immediate form of charity because of the universal buying power of money. However, if you’re someone who likes to give back even when you have very little money to give, do not despair. There are plenty of donations you can make that don’t require any money, and they’re just as meaningful. Here are some other ways you can give:
Volunteering is the most obvious answer to giving to charity without donating money, but it is also one of the most effective. Giving of yourself (your time, your labor, your skills, your compassion) is the most meaningful donation there is and will get you up-close-and-personal with the causes you support. Not to discourage monetary donations in any way, but with volunteering, you get to see the fruits of your labor. In contrast, with a monetary donation, you may feel good knowing that your money is playing a part in a more significant cause, but you don’t usually get to see it. It gets lost with all the other donations. Volunteering allows you to form a personal connection with a cause that’s close to your heart. If you’re passionate about helping the homeless population, volunteer at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter, and see their faces light up when you treat them like a person. If you love animals, volunteer at the shelter. If you’re good with children, volunteer to read to children in hospitals or schools, or serve as a mentor through a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
The internet makes it even easier to volunteer, with sites like VolunteerMatch connecting people to volunteer opportunities in their communities. You can also give your time from the convenience of home by simply surfing the web. You may have skills that are in high demand, and you can employ them without even setting foot outside your house through the website Skills for Change, by helping nonprofits meet challenges they face through applying skills like copywriting and graphic design. It’s easy to implement charity into your everyday internet activity as well; for instance, conduct your searches using GoodSearch instead of Google, and it will donate a penny to charity every time you perform a search. Tabs for a Cause raises money for charity with each new tab you open in your browser. Apps like Freerice and Charity Miles make donating fun and empowering, as Freerice gives 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Programme for every question you answer correctly through their games. Charity Miles donates 10 cents to charity for every mile you run using the app.
If you opt to donate that old jalopy, it’s nice to know that most centers offer free pick-up, running or not, from a location that is best for you. Instead of throwing away junk or letting it sit in storage, taking up space, and collecting dust, put your unused items to use and donate them to a charity such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Purple Heart, or a local nonprofit charity shop. Most nonprofits will be able to take just about anything you can think of, from clothes to books to appliances. It can be hard to part with anything that has sentimental value, but if you haven’t used it in over a year, ask yourself what good there is holding on to it and know that there is someone out there who could benefit from it.
If you are healthy and able, donate your blood to someone whose health depends upon it. If you can, find a blood drive to go to, or if not, you can always make an appointment with a blood donation center. Some centers even allow you to donate platelets and plasma as well, which aid in cancer and organ transplant treatments. The need for blood exists all the time, so don’t wait for the opportunity to come to you. There are a few qualifications you have to meet to be eligible to give blood, such as weighing at least 110 pounds, and not suffering from any illnesses. But if you meet them, giving blood is a beautiful, selfless act of volunteerism that has the power to save lives. Health benefits of donating blood include good health and reduced risk of cancer and hemochromatosis. It also helps reduce liver and pancreas damage.
In my experience, donating your hair is a much more personal gift than sending a check. You’re sending a piece of yourself to someone who suffers from long term hair loss. You’ve probably heard of organizations like Locks of Love and Wigs for Kids that donate your chopped-off hair when you get a haircut (rather than throwing it away) to make hairpieces for patients suffering from hair loss due to illness or medical treatments. But, you should know that not all hair can be donated. Hair that’s been colored, bleached, or chemically treated can’t be donated, nor can hair that is more than 5% gray. The minimum length requirement to donate your hair is 10 inches, but if your hair is long enough, this is a great way to help someone in need with no additional cost.