Throughout the past year, LearnVest has been working to help thousands of people get their financial lives in order and to maximize the money they have for themselves. That said, being frugal doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give back to the causes that matter to us. We believe that, in addition to helping others, being involved in charity also helps us remember what’s really important.
If you regularly donate money to charity, we salute you. If you feel like your budget is too stretched to hand over a chunk of money, there are still plenty of things you can do to give back to the community—for free.
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Actions Speak Louder Than, Well, You Know
Volunteering can be a painless way to give back to the community, especially if you do it with your family or a group of friends. If you aren’t sure whether you’d rather work at your local soup kitchen or build houses through Habitat for Humanity, there are lots of excellent resources to help you find the best charity match for you. Our favorites include Jumo, VolunteerMatch, and Idealist. You can find local volunteer opportunities on your phone through the Catalista app, too.
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Sparked is a great way to volunteer online in your spare time by helping nonprofits meet challenges that they face, based on your interests and skills. This could mean everything from basic graphic design to research to copywriting. For example, if you have experience with social media, you might spend a short while brainstorming for ways to connect with people to help fight cancer. Similarly, download the Give Work iPhone app to help give work to Kenyan refugees and offset costs. It works when companies outsource online tasks to Kenyan refugees (like confirming that certain images are of what they say they are, or picking out spam comments on a blog). Through the app, you can spend a few minutes looking over these apps, performing quality control and training the Kenyan staff, enabling companies to keep outsourcing these tasks to provide work to these refugees.
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Make Closet-Cleaning Charitable
Go through your closet to pick out clothing that you know you won’t be wearing again. We recently parted with a cardigan we used to love but haven’t worn in two years—it was hard, but worthwhile when we donated it to a charity that will let someone else get use out of it. For exactly how to go about donating your clothes and how to decide where to give, check out our article on the right way to donate your clothes.
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Double Your Donation
Get free money for your charitable donations through work—many corporations will match their employees’ donations up to 100 percent, which means double the impact. If your firm offers this, we encourage you to think about taking advantage of it, since it’s a unique opportunity to make your money go twice as far for a cause you believe in. To find out if your firm participates, try searching your internal company website and looking for tabs with names like “corporate responsibility,” “volunteering,” or “community affairs.” You can also try entering your company’s name into Google with the word “Foundation” after it to see whether your company has its own charitable foundation. If nothing else, try contacting human resources to see if they can help you track down special charitable programs.
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Unleash the Internet
The internet abounds with ways to give back for free. For the most part, this is possible because advertisers are willing to pay for eyeballs or publicity, so certain websites have sprung up to capitalize on that, and then donate the money to somewhere good. Here are some of our favorite options.
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Browse for a Cure
Install the Firefox plugin Browse For A Cause, which silently runs in the background and donates a percentage of your purchases to charity. For example, websites like Amazon kick back a small percentage to referring sites (usually 3% to 5%). Browse For A Cause takes that money and donates it entirely to a charity of your choice.
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Join SocialVibe to help support your favorite causes and organizations, like the World Wildlife Fund, suicide prevention organization To Write Love On Her Arms, Charity: Water, and more. To raise money for your cause, complete certain brand activities (like posting a message about a certain brand on your Facebook page), for which sponsors will donate money to one of over 40 nonprofits.
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Clothing and accessories company Shabby Apple will donate 5 cents to help women develop their own businesses through Kiva, a microlending resource, for every new person who “likes” them on Facebook.
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When you have a few spare minutes at work or while you’re procrastinating from something else, play the vocabulary game at Free Rice and donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme for each correct answer. It’s free to you, as it’s funded by sponsors who advertise on the site.
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The Breast Cancer Site
Donate to worthy organizations like the National Breast Cancer Foundation through The Breast Cancer Site. All you have to do is visit and click a button; you can do this every day to help provide free mammograms to women in need. Click on the tabs at the top to visit similar sites to help end hunger, child health, aid literacy, animal rescue, and the rain forest.
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Using a similar model, you can click once per day for additional causes through Care2, which uses advertiser money to fund organizations like Children International.