Now, more than ever, we need to give. The lingering impact of the recession has left more people in need, but nonprofits are less able to provide as donations decrease. Demand for essentials, such as food and housing, is persistently high.
Now, more than ever, we need to give. The lingering impact of the recession has left more people in need, but nonprofits are less able to provide as donations decrease. Demand for essentials, such as food and housing, is persistently high. If you're like me - a busy parent with few extra dollars to spare - you'll probably just shrug and say, "I just don't have anything left to give." But you do, just by maximizing the resources you already have and leveraging the services you already use. "These days, it's about how we give, not how much," said Nicole Bouchard Boles, author of "How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist." The goal, explained Boles, is to "give intelligently and wring the most potential out of everything we donate, particularly if we have less to contribute." Give part of yourself. Give something that has a tangible, significant impact on someone's life: a piece of yourself. A few ideas: Give blood to the American Red Cross. A single pint can save the lives of up to three people, yet only 3 percent of Americans donate. Or donate your hair to Locks of Love, which makes free custom hair pieces (which ordinarily cost up to $6,000) for children who have lost their hair due to illnesses like cancer. Give what you already have. Clip your unused coupons and send them to military families overseas, via the Overseas Coupon Project. Families can save by using them in the commissaries on their bases. The only cost is the stamp. Avid couponers can donate some of their "2-for-1" stash to local homeless family shelters. The YWCA Family Center and the Homeless Families Foundation have lists of needed items on their websites. If you have valuables gathering dust, auction them off and donate the proceeds to charity. Through eBay Giving Works, you can donate 10 to 100 percent of the sale price to charity. Or, sell the item on a site such as Craigslist, then donate the money. Green thumb? Donate veggies from your garden to local food banks, which always welcome fresh produce. Remodeling? Donate your old building fixtures to Habitat for Humanity, which sells them in their ReStore shops to raise money to build new houses. Put the web to work. Even if you don't have time to volunteer, your computer does. TheWorld Community Grid allows charities to use your computer's processing power when you aren't. The grid links your computer with thousands of others, creating a virtual super computer. It saves nonprofits money and reduces the time needed to conduct research on projects such as curing pediatric cancer. Or shop online for the cause. Ebates.com members can donate their cash-back rebates to charity. At iGiveSmart.com, the site's retail partners give a percentage of purchases made through the site directly to the charity you choose. Shopping for charity. You might be able to use retail rewards and discount cards to funnel money to your favorite causes. Meijer and Kroger have community rewards programs allowing you to link your store card to a favorite charity, which receives a small donation every time you shop. American Express, Discover, Visa and MasterCard all allow card holders to use credit card points and rebates to make charitable donations. With a little bit of creativity, you can leverage what you already have into greater good for the community - even if you don't have a lot of extra money to give. - Denise Trowbridge is a self-professed money geek who writes about personal finance, banking and insurance for The Columbus Dispatch, bankrate.com and middlepathfinance.com.