41 Free or Cheap Ways to Give to Charity


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Want to make a difference but don't have much money to spare? There are many ways to give that don't involve a lot of cash.

It’s a new year, and perhaps you have made a resolution to make a difference in 2017. Even if you don’t have much money to spare, there are plenty of ways to give that don’t involve writing a check.

And if you have a little bit of extra cash, even a dollar or two can make a surprisingly large impact. Following are 41 ways to give that cost little or nothing.

1. Box Tops 4 Education

These little coupons, worth 10 cents apiece, show up on products from seven manufacturers, including General Mills, Hanes and Hefty. A dime at a time might not sound like much, but it does add up.

2. Use your rewards

If you have a rewards credit card or belong to a program like Swagbucks or MyPoints, get creative about the way you use some of your loot. Cash in for a gift card to donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Or, have Amazon deliver some items to the senior center.

3. Blanket protection

Do you sew or knit? Look for a regional chapter of Project Linus, a nonprofit that provides blankets to ill or traumatized children.

4. Freecycle it

That bike you no longer ride or trunk full of baby clothes would be welcomed by folks who can’t afford such things. See if there’s a local chapter of The Freecycle Network, or put unwanted items up for grabs on the “free” section of Craigslist.

For safety’s sake, leave the stuff on the porch or in your driveway for someone to pick up. Or, offer to meet the new owners in a public place for a drop-off.

5. Trade in ink tanks

Recycle your printer cartridges at Staples, Office Max or Office Depot. Then, use the store credit to buy art supplies to donate to a school, or purchase office items for a nonprofit.

6. Share your magazines

When you’re done reading periodicals, cut off the mailing labels and ask permission to leave the magazines where people gather, such as a laundromat, food bank or social services agency. Or see if the elementary school can use them for educational or crafts purposes.

7. Give away plastic utensils

Someone can use those sealed packets of plastic utensils you get with takeout orders at work or home. Donate these to schools, community groups or a food pantry.

8. Donate old books

The American Library Association maintains a resource page on organizations that accept donated books. Children’s titles might find homes at after-school programs, public health clinics or social service agencies.

9. Coupon for a better world

The CouponMom.com website began as a project by Atlanta resident Stephanie Nelson, who exhorted fellow couponers to collect free or nearly free items for food banks. While the deals aren’t as great as they once were, “it’s still possible to ‘buy’ free products [with] coupons when items are on sale,” Nelson says.

Her site matches coupons to sales at hundreds of drugstores, supermarkets and dollar stores across the country.

10. Pick up recyclables

Do you walk for exercise? Take a bag and pick up cans and bottles along the way. Your neighborhood gets a little cleaner, and the money can go to your favorite cause.

11. Donate pet- or house-sitting

A Seattle neighbor used to hire me to check in on her cat when she took short vacations. After the first couple of times, I asked that she make a donation to charity instead of paying me. You can do the same.

12. Lend your phone

Maybe someone in a nursing home or veterans hospital would like to call family/friends but can’t afford it. If you have unlimited minutes, talk to a social worker about sharing your phone for an hour at a time.

13. Give new eyes

Replacing your glasses? Leave the previous pair with a group that will find new users, such as Lions Clubs International or New Eyes. A number of optical chains (including LensCrafters, Sears Optical, Target Optical, Pearle Vision and Sunglass Hut) also recycle glasses.

14. Give new ears

A number of groups accept hearing aids, including Lions Clubs International’s Hearing Aid Recycling Program, and Help the Children Hear.

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