How Can I Contribute to Any Charity Without Donating Money?

I get letters everyday of people wanting to help others and looking for ways to do this. Lately I have been too busy to do much of my own charity work, so instead I have helped other charities doing their marketing and websites. I love to develop websites and although it costs me time and money… I find that I can do it anytime and make an impact by helping others with my skills.

Let me share what I have sent others when they write me:

Dear Jyl,
I?d love to give to charity, but I don’t have a lot of cash lying around. If I do get some spare money, I want to make sure it’s donated responsibly. How can I get involved in a way that really helps people?


Dear Jolene,
Giving is a good notion, regardless of what your income level is. Studies have shown that spending money on others can have a better effect on our personal happiness than spending it on ourselves. Of course, if you don’t have much, it can feel a little crummy. However, there are plenty of ways to contribute without going into debt.

Give Money Away to Relieve Financial Stress

It might seem a little counter-intuitive, but if you’re stressed out about finances… there are ways to give back without spending money, such as:?

Make Something You Can Donate

Not all needs are financial. Many charities collect and distribute clothing or homemade items for a variety of services. Some make blankets or clothing for sheltered or injured animals. Others accept blankets, caps, and clothing for people that have various medical issues. Mental Floss has a great collection of charities that accept all manner of homemade items.

If you’re not well versed in the arts of knitting or crocheting, you can donate hair to Locks of Love, a charity that makes hairpieces for patients that experience hair loss from any medical treatment. This one might be easier for women or men who have long hair, as they require a minimum length of 10 inches to accept donations.

Volunteer Your Time Instead of Money

Donating money isn’t the only way to benefit your long-term health and happiness while helping others. One study showed that people who volunteered their time tended to live longer than those who didn’t?it even showed that doing so because you want to help others has a greater effect than doing so to benefit yourself. Of course, while you’re there, you?ll likely learn some great DIY skills for free, as well as get a reference letter out of the deal.

Volunteering for the Right Reasons Might Help You Live Longer

If you have the time, volunteering is an excellent way to keep yourself busy and positive.?Even if you don’t have a ton of free time, sites like Sparked let you donate your time in very small blocks, offering whatever skills you feel may be beneficial to someone else. You can also use sites like VolunteerMatch to find organizations in your area that are doing the type of work you’d like to get involved in.

You can also find places to volunteer at the old fashioned way: hitting up any place that might need help. Churches, hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, animal shelters, hospices, and plenty more typically need help with something. Call up any facility like this near you and, if they don’t have a spot open for you to volunteer at, they’ll know someone who does. Check out our guide to finding a volunteer gig, too.

How to Find a Volunteer Gig You’ll Actually Enjoy

Volunteering is one of those quirky little things that we all know we should probably do more?

Even if you don’t have a ton of money, using a credit card to pay for things you already buy can earn some rewards that can go directly to a charity of your choice. As with anything involving a credit card, you’ll need to take a close look at the terms and rates involved. Some cards will have some decent automatic donations, but others may be comparatively minimal.

If you can’t find a credit card that offers a decent donation rate, skip the middleman entirely and go for a cash back card. As finance blog Money Saving Expert points out, sometimes the amount of plain cash you can get back will exceed the amount that a charity card will donate for you. In that case, just get the normal perk and set aside that money to give to any charity you choose. In both cases, though, be sure to pay off your credit card immediately. It doesn’t do you much good to donate reward money if you’re overpaying on interest anyway.

Donate Your Computer’s Idle Time

Okay, so you’re short on time and money and you don’t want to get a new credit card just to give back. Well, technology has made it easy for even the most busy people to give back without much effort by letting you volunteer your computer’s idle time.

Volunteer your computer’s idle time to good causes

If you keep your computer on all the time, volunteer its spare cycles to science with the Berkeley? Researchers have need for massive computing power that they can’t always pay to perform in house. Projects like Folding@home, BOINC, the World Community Grid, and LHC@home allow you to contribute CPU cycles when you’re not using your computer towards tasks like understanding proteins, weather cycles, and even curing diseases.

Regularly Donate Blood and Plasma

Hospitals and other medical facilities have a pretty consistent need for blood donations. Unfortunately, injury and sickness don’t wait for someone to come by and offer up their arm for an hour or so. The Red Cross is more than willing to help you find a place to give blood nearby.

You can also donate just plasma. Plasma donations can be made more frequently than blood donations, since only the plasma and platelets are removed, while the blood is returned to your body. Donors with type O blood in particular are prime candidates since their blood is universally compatible with all blood types.

Take Your Old Stuff to Goodwill or the Salvation Army

You may already have some stuff laying around that a family in your community needs. The Salvation Army and Goodwill both accept donations of a wide array of goods that are then either given or sold for lower-than-retail prices to the community. If you’re looking to clear out a bunch of junk anyway, it’s a great way to make sure that someone else can benefit from your stuff.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that many places such as churches, food banks, or schools will accept many of the same items that you can donate to these two organizations. If you’re not comfortable with giving to them, or just want to make sure your stuff goes to a more local charity, check your local area for charitable organizations that accept donations of goods.

This list is by no means comprehensive and, in fact, there’s virtually no limit to the ways that you can help out or do some good without having money. Don’t forget, not everyone who needs help is going to an organization. Friends, family members, coworkers, and even yourself all need help with something at some point or another. Just know what you’re able to provide and, when you see a need, offer to fill it.




Jyl Gilsdorf