With today’s economy as hideous as it is, a lot of people balk at the idea of giving to charity: many of us live very frugally out of necessity, and we don’t necessarily have a load of extra cash to pour towards charitable or non-profit organizations. That said, Mother Theresa was right on point when she said: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” It doesn’t take much effort to make a dramatic difference in another’s life, so if any of these low-cost charitable actions appeal to you, consider taking part in a couple of them.

Virtual Donations

Help doesn’t have to happen face-to-face: if you’re housebound (or shy), you can help out from the comfort of your own home.

  • Click to help others. The Greater Good web hub allows you to donate items to the needy with a simple click of your mouse. You can choose to support breast cancer research, anti-hunger campaigns, organizations that work towards eliminating cruelty to animals, and many others.
  • Play a Game. For every answer you get right in their numerous online games, Free Rice will donate rice to the World Food Programme to end hunger.
  • Sign Petitions. There are countless issues around the world that are in need of addressing, and chances are you’ll find an online petition for any cause that you feel strongly about. Signing a petition doesn’t take long, and can result in some amazing, positive change. Every signature is a voice, and sometimes those who cannot speak for themselves need us to stand up and speak out on their behalf.

The Gift of Time

If you don’t have much extra change lying around, chances are you may have a bit of time to spare. Instead of spending an hour looking at cat videos on YouTube or liking various people’s Facebook posts, you could fill those 60 minutes by doing something that could benefit other people. Websites such as Idealist and Charity Village post all manner of volunteer opportunities, so you can donate your time in a way that suits you best.

If you’re a fairly social person and like the idea of hands-on charitable support where you can interact with the public, consider helping out in one of the following ways:

  • Volunteering at an animal shelter. The furred and feathered friends waiting for adoption at shelters need a lot of love and attention; generally more than the staff members can allot to each one. If you’re an animal lover, consider volunteering to walk dogs, brush cats, or just spend time interacting with the birds and little furry creatures. They’re likely scared and confused, and being gentle and attentive can lift their spirits and give them  better chances of being re-homed.
  • Spending time with elderly residents in retirement homes. Many elderly people who live in care facilities are really quite lonely: those who don’t have family members living nearby may not ever receive visitors, and those who may be confined to bed or wheelchairs can’t really take part in facility events. Some may enjoy being read to, others might like to chat about the past over a cup of tea, and some may feel immensely useful if they can help you learn to knit, or learn a new language.
  • Helping out at a soup kitchen or food bank. Despite what you may have been led to believe, not all of the clients at soup kitchens are violent, schizophrenic homeless people who’ll attack you with broken umbrellas if you don’t greet their imaginary friends. Sadly, many who visit soup kitchens and food banks are poverty-stricken families with young children, students who have to choose between tuition and meals, and highly educated people who’ve found themselves unemployed thanks to the recession. You can help to nourish people’s spirits by letting them know that they’re worthy of kindness and respect, while you’re ensuring that they enjoy a warm meal.
  • Offering companionship at a hospice. This one might be difficult for people who are emotionally sensitive, as hospices are care facilities for the dying. Many people find it difficult to face mortality, and spending time with those whose lives are ending isn’t easy. That said, if you feel that you’re in a position to be able to offer your assistance to these patients, be it by reading to them, helping them with paperwork, or just holding their hand and listening to them, the experience can be incredibly rewarding for all involved.

Put Your Skills to Work

If you have some great skills and would like to use them for the benefit of others, there are many ways in which you can help out:

  • Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. Are you handy with a hammer? Habitat for Humanity is always on the lookout for people who have carpentry and building skills.
  • Make warm clothes for newborns and orphans. There are many organizations worldwide that accept handmade or knitted accessories and clothes for premature newborns and orphaned children.
  • Knit or crochet for those in need. If you’re an avid knitter or crocheter, consider using scrap yarn to make blankets and warm clothing for homeless outreach programs, animal shelters and rehabilitation centers, elderly folks living in poverty, or those living in refugee camps. 

Other Donations

Should you still wish to give to charity but don’t have time or money to give, then consider cleaning out your closets and cupboards for items to donate. Food banks are always in need of canned goods and other non-perishable items, and gently used clothes, blankets, and toys can be put to great use in women’s shelters and homeless outreach programs.

There’s always some way in which we can help others, and if we are able to do so, we probably should.

When it comes to benefits of volunteering, a lot of people think that’s it’s all about the warm and fuzzy feeling you feel after helping someone. 11 Facts About Volunteering That Will Surely Impress You

Featured photo credit: Hungry children in refugee campvia Shutterstock

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