Most of us wish we could afford sweeping, generous donations to our favourite charities. We would love to fund the new wing of the children’s hospital, or cover the vaccination costs of all the cute little kitties in the SPCA.
Unfortunately, valiant gestures like these aren’t exactly within reach of most of us. But even if we can’t dump money on the causes about which we’re most passionate, we can still find small, low-cost, but no less significant ways to give back and do good. Here are seven fuzzy feeling-inducing, karmically rewarding options:
1. Grab some generous gifts.
As if gift-giving wasn’t generous enough on its own, tons of companies offer products that do more than just put a smile on the recipient’s face. Whether your purchase results in a second, similar item being sent to someone in need, or a percentage of each sale is passed on to a charity, you’ll be stretching your hard-saved holiday dollars even further!
I’m sure the head of any non-profit will tell you even donating one Saturday a month helping out around the office/clinic/centre can make a huge difference. Your job might not be glamorous – I’ve bleached my fair share of doorknobs! – but those menial tasks save the company from having to hire someone, or redirect their small number of precious, paid staff.
3. Attend or support a fundraiser.
This one requires a little bit more spending, but you might get some networking, a prize, or a meal out of it. Buy raffle tokens, purchase a ticket for a charity supper (large-scale events often cost about as much as dinner in a nice restaurant), or buy a few chocolate bars supporting a good cause.
4. Help a stranger.
Buy coffee for that huddled form you pass near the 7-11 every night, or pick up a six-inch sub for the panhandler that always says good morning, even though you never give him your change.
Might I suggest: don’t just grab a double-double or a ham and cheese sandwich. Take a moment to “take their order” before you go into the store. While most people will appreciate your gesture either way, people who are homeless often get very little choice of food, clothing, and other basics; you might as well be the exception to the rule.
5. Donate your professional skill.
Writers, offer to pen or edit a charity’s newsletter; photographers, snap shots of the next event pro bono; artists, accept a commission to brighten up the new community meeting room, free of charge. Whatever you’re good at, consider waiving your usual fee to help make a difference. (You can even turn it into a tax write-off!)
A note about this: don’t ever let anyone guilt you into offering your services for free; people in art-related fields are often baited – and sometimes fall – into this trap. Make sure you’re donating your talent on your own terms, not just because some random company approached you with a sob story and expects you to work for “exposure”.
6. Say yes to the quickie donation.
The next time you’re paying for your groceries, accept the additional dollar or two requested for that children’s charity or the local food bank. Most of us won’t even notice in the long run, and if every customer did this, these charities would make a killing!
Two caveats to this, though: make sure it’s a charity you support – you might as well be giving your cash to causes you feel passionate about – and keep track of how many times you do this. Very quickly, your here-and-there donations can add up to dozens of dollars; not only could that hurt your budget, but let’s be practical: you could donate that as a chunk instead, and get a nice tax break!
7. Help the planet.
There are plenty of options out there for quick, simple, low-cost habits that can save our earth one action at a time. Bring your own mug to the coffee shop (you’ll often save a few cents, too!), take up the Meatless Monday mantle, ride your bike to the gym instead of driving, shop at second-hand stores for items that don’t need to be new. Every little bit really does make a difference, despite what the cynical say. Allow yourself to revel in that toasty tummy sensation that comes from making a difference; you’ll feel it regardless of how much money you spent.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself! I’m certain you’re finding ways to do good, even if you don’t feel comfortable taking on any of these suggestions; maybe you make a large annual donation to a charity close to your heart, or maybe you’re currently making a difference by simply being kind to others.
Something as easy as smiling at a stranger can start that karma rolling, and whatever other little things you do – good on ya!