The recession has hit charities where it hurts: in the donation box. While charitable donations tanked in 2008, they started rebounding last year, says the Giving USA Foundation. In 2010, Americans gave an estimated $290 billion – a 2.1 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars. And the Red Cross conducted a study this month that shows 67 percent of us plan to donate to charity this year.
Before you do that, check out 4 Tips to Find the Right Charity, which Money Talks News ran just a couple of weeks ago. Donate what you can, then do what I do: Give without spending money, or at least without spending extra money.
This year, all of my Christmas gifts are coming from online charity shops. These sites donate a portion of their proceeds directly to charity, so I’m doing good without doing much…
With Socialvest, a percentage of the purchases you make at participating retailers (currently more than 600) goes in to your giving account. The percentage amount varies by store, but typically ranges from 1 percent to 15 percent. The site lists the donation percentage next to each store name. Once you rack up points in your giving account, you can donate to any one of the charities sponsored by Socialvest. I’ve been using Socialvest all year for my personal shopping, and I plan to start racking up Christmas presents come Cyber Monday. While other sites like this one exist (see below), I prefer Socialvest because you can choose a different charity for every donation you make.
Like Socialvest, iGive donates a portion of your purchase (up to 26 percent) to the charity of your choice when you shop at a participating retailer. Unlike Socialvest, you must pick a charity at sign-up and stick with it. Still, I use iGive too because it has a third more participating retailers – 900-plus, compared to 600-plus. With iGive, I was able to find a few teeny tiny charities that weren’t sponsored by the other sites.
3. GoodSearch and GoodShop
Every time you search the Web through the GoodSearch toolbar – instead of, say, Google or Bing – the site donates to the charity of your choice. You can up your donations by buying Christmas gifts through GoodShop, GoodSearch’s sister site. It took some getting used to, but now I use GoodSearch all the time. You earn about a penny per search, and so far I’ve racked up a little over $100 for my chosen charity. I also love GoodShop, if only for the easy-to-understand donation rules and the coupons. GoodShop clearly marks the donation percent under every shopping site, which ranges from 1 to 6 percent on average, and you can find a ton of coupons for shopping online.
SERRV provides a website where artisans from poor and struggling communities across the world can sell their goods. The site has handmade fair-trade gifts ranging from table lamps to organic coffee. Every purchase you make helps SERRV continue to foster the fair trade movement. SERRV isn’t the only group in the fair-trade business, but I’ve found their gifts are of the best quality. The ornaments I ordered last year stayed looking new through a move and a storage flooding disaster.
5. Charity gift cards
Instead of making a charitable donation in honor of a friend or family member this season, why not let them choose the charity? A few reputable sites offer charity gift cards. You pick the amount and the recipient picks the charity. They including CharityChoice, JustGive, and Charity Navigator.
6. The Human Rights Campaign shop
The Human Rights Campaign shop has clothing, jewelry, accessories, and a special-edition Christmas ornament. Founded in 1980, the Human Rights Campaign may not be the only charity of its kind, but it’s one of the biggest, with local chapters across the country. The charity focuses on advocacy and outreach for LGBT Americans. One of their most popular programs, the HRC Workplace Project, starts LGBT support groups in corporations across the U.S. And profits from the store sales go directly to the charity.
7. Fun Time Dog Shop
If you have a dog lover in the family, they’ll appreciate a gift for their four-legged buddy. The Fun Time Dog Shop has treats, toys, supplies, and even a few gifts for humans too. And all of the profits go to dog rescue groups and nonprofit organizations. The ASPCA has an online store that’s also full of great gifts, but I like that the Fun Time Dog Shop works with smaller animal rescue groups – because the smallest groups always have the biggest need for funding.
8. Red Cross Store
The Red Cross Store has first aid kits and emergency preparedness supplies, but the site also sells gifts and holiday cards. Proceeds from the sales benefit the Red Cross directly. Through their disaster-relief programs, the Red Cross has been a beacon of hope for families for decades – providing shelters, emergency care, and even clothing. They’re a charitable organization that definitely deserves every dollar I can throw their way.
Whether you’re giving directly or giving by shopping this year, make sure you choose a reputable charity. Charity Navigator has reviews and ratings for different charities,which can help you find the best places to give. And for more donating ideas, check out 7 Gifts Ideas That Help Charities.