Giving back doesn’t always have to mean making a large cash donation to your favorite charity.
In fact, there are many different ways to support charities and nonprofits even when you’re low on funds. You may not realize it, but you probably have a lot to offer to local charities and nonprofits, including your time, skills, and even your space.
How to Support Charities When You Can’t Make a Cash Donation
Here are some of the best ways to give back and do good that won’t cut into your budget.
1. Donate in Your Will
Some or all of these assets can be gifted to the charity of your choice upon your death, alongside the items and assets that you leave to your other beneficiaries, such as your children or spouse.
Planned giving is an invaluable resource to many charitable organizations and allows you to continue to rely on your assets during your life. It’s also a perfect way to leave a personal legacy and have your assets be used to make a positive difference after you die.
Pro tip: If you don’t have a will set up for yourself, you can get started online through Trust & Will.
Volunteering is an obvious way to help charity and nonprofit organizations when you’re not in a position to offer up cash. Many charities rely on volunteers to help with activities like collecting donations, assisting with events, organizing supplies, and physical labor.
Reach out to the charities you’d like to support to see what kinds of volunteers they are looking for and whether you’re a fit.
3. Donate Supplies or Items
Donating much-needed supplies and items that you no longer need is good for both you and the charities you support. For example, you can give:
- Nonperishable food and pantry items to food banks
- Pet food, toys, and supplies to animal shelters
- Clothes and toiletries to homeless shelters
- Toys, clothes, books, and furniture to family centers
Not only will this support the charities in your local community, but it also gives your unwanted items a second life, positively impacting the environment through upcycling.
4. Reach Out to Your Network
If a charity you follow reaches out for something specific, consider whether anyone in your personal or professional network would be able to lend a hand.
For example, maybe a connection of yours can help with a building repair, or you may have a friend who lives in a town where something needs to be picked up. Coordinating assistance within your network can get charities out of tough spots and save them money.
5. Buy From Charity Shops
Although you may not have cash to donate, you still need to purchase general items like clothing, groceries, and personal care products. Whenever possible, buy from charity shops or stores that either directly fund or donate to charities and nonprofit organizations.
For example, many thrift stores are run by charities like The Salvation Army. Any money made from selling items is used to support the organization and goes toward services like food pantries, disaster relief, homeless shelters, and more.
Some websites also coordinate donations and shopping wish lists for charities, like AmazonSmile.
6. Buy From Certified B Corporations
Alternatively, certified B corporations are for-profit retailers that meet social sustainability and environmental performance standards as dictated by B Lab, which is a global nonprofit organization. Essentially, B-corps have proven their dedication as a business to be socially and environmentally responsible by completing a rigorous certification process.
Purchasing from B-corps generally means supporting companies that participate in sustainable production and distribution practices. The companies often donate to charities and other nonprofit organizations as well.
7. Make and Sell Baked Goods or Crafts
Making and selling crafts and sweet treats to raise money is a popular and straightforward way to collect donations and support charities. You can sell goods like preserves, decorative items, knitwear, or pet treats, with a percentage of the proceeds being donated to a charitable cause.
You may even find that a charity can use your goods directly. For example, if you knit hats and mittens, you can donate them to an organization that will give them to people who need them, like those experiencing homelessness. Or, if you cook or bake, reach out to see if you can help in a soup kitchen or through meal donations.
8. Donate Your Professional Skills
Charities need support in many different ways. Often, they’re underfunded and don’t have the means to focus on marketing channels like their website, blog, or social media. They may also have to cut corners when it comes to event planning, writing grant proposals, or promoting fundraising events.
Even if it doesn’t seem obvious, it’s likely charities could benefit from your professional skills in one way or another. From offering your expertise to coming up with a partnership proposal between your employer and a local charity, there are many ways that you can use your job and professional knowledge to give back.
9. Offer Auction Items
Lots of charities hold online and offline auctions to raise funds and bring in donations. Many of the items that are auctioned off have been donated by supporters within the community. If you have a valuable item that’s gathering dust in your home, donate it to a charity auction.
If you don’t have any physical items to donate to a charity auction, offer up a package of your professional skills for the auction instead. Depending on what you do, you could offer:
- Massage appointments
- Graphic design services
- Dance lessons
- Social media training
- Customized crafts or goods
10. Use Your Car
Charitable giving doesn’t have to mean donating items or cash — it can also mean your time. Charities rely on supplies to operate, and sometimes coordinating the pick-up, drop-off, and distribution of those items can be challenging.
If you have a vehicle and want to lend a hand, offer to run errands, retrieve supplies, move items, or help with drop-offs or deliveries.
Many animal shelters also need help with transporting animals to shelters and to and from vet appointments.
Offering up your services as a chauffeur or delivery driver will make a big difference, even if it seems like a small task.
11. Coordinate Fundraising Events
Fundraising events like walks and runs and neighborhood collections get the community involved and can generate a lot of interest, meaning more participation and donations.
Run a neighborhood food drive for your local food bank; organize a community walk or run for a good cause; host a raffle or 50/50 drawing; or sell items like cookie dough, fudge, or chocolate bars in exchange for donations.
Reach out to neighbors, family members, and contacts from local groups that you participate in, like sports teams or book clubs.
Set a goal and let everyone know what it is so that you can work together to meet it.
12. Use a Charity Credit Card
Certain credit cards give to the charity of your choice based on how much you spend. If you use a credit card to make the majority of your purchases, this is a great way to give back without affecting your personal finances or bank account.
Get in touch with your bank to see whether they offer any charity credit cards and which organizations you can choose from. Examples include the Susan G. Komen® Credit Card and Stand Up To Cancer® Credit Card, both of which donate a small percentage of your spending to charitable foundations that support cancer research and related activities.
Alternately, you can use a cash-back credit card and donate any money that you receive to a good cause instead.
13. Ask Your Employer to Help
Many businesses support charities in different ways. From matching employee donations to making donations from employees as rewards or gifts, companies benefit from both goodwill and tax-deductible expenses when they support nonprofits and charitable organizations.
If you aren’t sure whether your employer participates in charitable giving, get in touch with your manager or human resources representative to find out how they can help you to support your favorite cause.
If they don’t have any formal programs in place, consider hosting a workplace fundraiser for your coworkers and donating as a group.
14. Ask for and Give Donations as Gifts
Instead of asking for items for your birthday or holidays, ask family and friends to donate to charities in your name.
Some social media platforms, including Facebook, facilitate birthday fundraisers for a variety of charities.
Or, when giving gifts to others, purchase presents from charities when possible. There are a variety of causes to donate to and many items to choose from. For example, popular gifts include:
- Stuffed animals and symbolic adoptions
- Sponsoring kennels at animal shelters
- Adopting natural land or habitats
- Artisanal apparel and items made by women in impoverished countries
- Meals and health care resources for those in need
You can also buy from retailers that give back by supporting the charity or nonprofit organization your friend or loved one prefers.
Gifts that support charities let you have your cake and eat it too.
15. Take Advantage of Giving Tuesday
Giving Tuesday takes place each year on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It began as a movement encouraging people to include charitable donations in their holiday spending but has since become popular with businesses as well.
Many companies offer donation matching for specific charities, meaning that if you can make a donation on Giving Tuesday, your impact will be doubled.
If you can only donate money once a year, be strategic about making a difference and save up the fruits of your fundraising efforts for Giving Tuesday.
16. Work With Animals
There are many ways you can support animal shelters when you don’t have the funds to donate money. For example, make time to:
- Walk shelter dogs
- Socialize adoptable cats and dogs
- Foster a pet
- Raise a litter of abandoned kittens or puppies
- Pick up or drop off adoptable animals
- Groom or train shelter pets
If you’re looking for a furry companion for yourself, go through an adoption agency or shelter instead of a breeder if possible. The money that you pay for an adoption fee will help other animals to get the care and help that they need in order to find loving homes.
17. Interact on Social Media
When a charity or nonprofit organization that you follow asks for help on social media, interacting with their post increases the number of views it gets, boosting their reach.
Liking, sharing, and commenting can all go a long way in getting calls for help in front of the right people, and it requires little effort on your part.
Make sure you’re following your favorite charities on social media and help them to spread the word when they’re in a bind by interacting with their content as often as possible.
18. Be a Supply Drop-Off Point
Some local charities aren’t conveniently located, which makes it hard for their supporters to drop off supplies on a regular basis. If this is the case for a charity you support, offer to allow others to drop supplies off at your property, and either transport them to the charity yourself or have the charity coordinate a pick-up when there are enough items to make the trip worth it.
This is especially useful for charities that benefit from bulky items like food and clothing. Plus, having an easy and accessible drop-off point makes it easier for others to donate, meaning they may donate more items more often.
19. Sign Petitions and Send Letters
Believe it or not, petitions can be impactful when they are headed by and targeted toward the right people. Petitions are often an essential step in gauging and proving public interest in and support of different laws, plans, and initiatives.
The same goes for letters to governments and industry leaders.
Pay attention to any petitions or causes that your favorite charity asks you to support and, if you agree with them, make your voice heard. The more attention people bring to a cause, the more likely it is to be addressed.
20. Attend Peaceful Protests
Peaceful assemblies or protests are another way to draw eyes to an issue and highlight its importance to the general public. Just look at Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement.
Peaceful protests are often headed or supported by charities and nonprofit organizations, and your support can make a big difference by encouraging business owners, lawmakers, and politicians to make a change.
21. Help in Small Ways
The smallest of gestures can make a big difference. Helping out with simple tasks can free up time for charity workers to take care of more specialized tasks. You can always offer to:
- Shovel snow, salt sidewalks, or mow lawns
- Make phone calls or mail letters
- Send out emails
- Inventory supplies
22. Ask How You Can Help
If none of these ideas seem like a fit for you, all hope is not lost. Get in touch with the charity that means the most to you and ask them how you can help. Tell them about any relevant professional skills or hobbies you have that they may find useful.
Although they may not have anything for you right away, chances are they’ll reach out in the future when they find something that’s a match.
Donating money is just one of many ways that you can help charities and nonprofits to pursue their mission, grow, and thrive. By exploring your options, considering what you have to offer, getting creative with gifts, and involving yourself in the community, you can become a valuable asset to the causes that mean the most to you, without negatively impacting your budget.