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Creative ways to help a charity without spending any money

Seven billion people now inhabit the Earth.

That is mind blowingly amazing and scary at the same time. Below is an excerpt from the UN report (pdf):

“While women are on average having fewer children than they were in the 1960s, our numbers continue to rise. Globally, people are younger—and older—than ever before. In some of the poorest countries, high fertility rates hamper development and perpetuate poverty, while in some of the richest countries, low fertility rates and too few people entering the job market are raising concerns about prospects for sustained economic growth and the viability of social security systems.”

Translation : Rich countries will have low economic growth which in turn will lead to less disposable income and poor countries with go into further poverty.

Whenever the economy goes south and we lose income the first thing that gets the axe in anyone’s budget is charity. It is in those testing times however, that people need help from any quarter and unfortunately, it is when charities that can provide this help, get the least support.

But we can help charities in a lot of ways that do not involve money. I am not talking about the usual suspects – donating time, donating organs/blood, donating skills and donating goods. We can do better than that and below I show you how.

How to help charities without spending any money.

1. Change your search engine : I spend a ton of time searching online, for everything starting from articles of note to zucchini based recipes. Each search can feed a child or plant a tree, without any effort on my part. All I have to do is use a different page to search instead of the search engine’s home page. For example if your favorite search engine is Google, you could use Search Kindly.  It actually allows you to choose your search engine. It offers Google, Bing, Yahoo and Wikipedia as options. They donate 100% of the proceeds. Another option is Good Search which is powered by Yahoo. They donate 50% of the proceeds but the advantage with Good Search is you can choose a cause you want the proceeds to go to with Good Search. You can also register your own/favorite charity and ask everyone you know to use Good Search to “fund raise” for your charity.

Google handles 1 billion searches per day. That alone would be equivalent to $300,000 if the searches were done via Search Kindly.

2. Improve your vocabulary : We waste a lot of time playing Angry Birds. Here is a new, fun game – Freerice. For every vocabulary question you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated. Imagine that, simultaneously learning, having fun, and doing good in the world. It is fun to see the rice add up, you will know what I mean when you play.

Approx. 200 million minutes are spent on Angry Birds each day. Those minutes are enough to generate rice to feed 2,083,333 adults for a day.

3. Use a free email program : I think by now all of us have web based email. There are some free web based email accounts that donate money for every email you send. Example : Care2 provides an email account with 5 gigs of space, spam/virus filters and all the good stuff, EcologyFund has 25 MB. I prefer the Care2 because I found EcologyFund ads to be intrusive. I don’t use Care2 for any personal email, but I do use them as my “anonymous” account when I put something for sale on Craigslist or for free on freecycle.

4. Donate your computer’s idle time : When we buy a computer, we go for the best configuration our money can buy. Do we use all of it? Do you use your computer 24/7? Let you computer help cure HIV or crack a difficult science problem when you take bathroom breaks. You can pick and choose what cause you want to contribute to. Mine has been folding proteins for a while now. This won’t slow your computer, it will just be activated when your computer is not doing anything else. Example : BOINC (causes include several science projects, fighting bio terrorism, studying global warming) or Super Donate (causes include Charity:Water, The Nature Conservatory)

5. Exercise : This is reasonably well known. Participate in a charity run/walk event. This will sometimes require an entrance fee, but I have seen plenty of ones that will just take as many people as they can get.

6. Use your mouse clicks : Like to click random stuff? :) Click the ads from sponsors and they will donate to charity – Click to donate. You don’t have to buy anything.

7. Prefer your smart phone instead of a mouse? You can tap to help the charity. The Breast Cancer Site lets you tap different sponsors (yes that is all you have to do) and help them fund free mammograms. You can download the Touch-to-give app if that is easier for you.

In North America, there are 272,066,000 internet users. If each of us click/tap one time, just once an year it can fund more than 8000 mammograms.

8. Get a credit card  (if you are a responsible credit card user) : Recently a lot of charities have been issuing branded credit cards (Example :  Bank of America’s American Heart Association card, Target RED Take Charge of Education card). The charity will get a bonus when you sign up for these cards and every time you spend the charity gets some money. Essentially you are giving your cash back rewards to the charity. Personally I would get the cash back and donate it myself so that I can get some extra tax deduction, but some people might prefer getting the charity credit card option. Some credit cards (like the Thank You rewards cards) will allow you to redeem the points as charity donation.

9. Donate Stock : I have written about this before. We started doing this recently. If you are going to donate $10000 anyway to charity and you are planning to sell $10000 worth of stock in the same year. You will be better off saving that money and donating the stock. This way you don’t have to pay the capital gains and the charity gets the full amount too.

10. Shop online : This is from the folks at Good Shop. If you want something from Amazon anyway, instead of going to the Amazon site directly you will go through Good Shop. You won’t pay extra, Good Shop gets a percentage of your sale from Amazon and the charity gets money from Good Shop. You won’t spend an extra penny.

11. Donate your unused vacation time : At work, I lose vacation time if it is not used within a certain period of time. I can’t convert it to cash. But my company has a policy that allows me to donate that time (up to a certain limit) to colleagues who are in need due to sickness or other family emergencies. During hurricane Katrina they implemented a scheme where we could donate our vacation time and they would convert it to it’s cash equivalent and donate that amount. If I am not going to take the time off anyway, at least it can be used by someone else.

In 2004, 30% of Americans didn’t use up their vacation time, which totaled to 415 million unused vacation days. Even with minimum wage that would be $3,320,000,000.

12. Turn volunteer time into cash : A lot of companies match employee’s charitable cash contributions up to a certain amount (if you are donating make sure to check with your HR if there is such a program in your company, this instantly doubles your donation). But what if your contribution is in the form of your time? Some companies matches that too. Example : Microsoft matches employee’s volunteer time at $17 per hour through the Volunteer Time Matching program. Through this benefit, the allocated limit is US$12,000 per employee, per year. Boing offers that too up to $6000 per year per employee. My company doesn’t have a written policy on this but if any employee organizes a charity event, they usually match the hours up to $10000 (it’s a small company).

13. Donate your smelly shoes : I used to throw/recycle my old shoes because they are usually not in a donate-able condition. But I found out that Nike will take your smelly shoes and turn that into materials for public playgrounds or tennis courts. Check out the video on how it is done here – Nike Reuse-a-shoe. Cool huh! All you have to do is send your shoes in.

Americans on average, buy 2300 shoes a day. If we donate half of that, we can use that to build a public basketball court in 2 days.

14. Donate your hair : If you have long hair that you cut anyway, why not donate it to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair for various reasons. Locks of love and Wigs for kids are two organizations that accept hair donations. To make the deal better, some salons even offer discounts when you are donating the hair.

It costs $1500-$3000 to design a single hair system. And it takes hair from 3 people to design a system.

15. Donate your old glasses : I wear glasses. I do an eye check up and get a new pair of glasses every year.  I am fortunate enough to get it for free via insurance. But in some countries, the cost of glasses can be equal to one year salary. For the visually impaired  people in these countries, the donated glasses are the only way to get eyesight. You can donate your eyeglasses via several organizations like LionsClubNew Eyes for the Needy or OneSight. These organizations have partnered with local optical facilities to make it even more convenient. Just drop your glasses off at any  LensCraftersPearle VisionSears Optical, Target Optical or Sunglass Hut. Even if you have non-prescription sunglasses, you can donate them as they are needed in countries near the equator to help protect people’s eyes from sun damage.

16. Volunteer from home : I am putting this last because it does require time so technically it doesn’t belong in this post, but you could volunteer from home and set your own hours with various charities. I want to mention that option here. You can be a virtual assistant and stuff mailings or do light book keeping. You could also donate your voice by reading public domain books. I like that option because I want to read some of those books anyway.

17. Give work to a charity : I am volunteering for a non-profit organization that offers mentally and physically challenged people job training. Many local organizations provide them with jobs that they will hire out ranging from mowing lawns to data entry. The non-profit organizations uses these jobs to provide everyone with on-the-job training. The job gets done and it also helps someone to get trained. If you have any work that you will hire someone anyway you could check if there is a non-profit organization that might interested in getting the project.


Help charity without spending money


As you can see, not having time or money is not a barrier for doing good. If you want to, there is a way to make it work.

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