Five Cash-Free Ways to Give Back

Five Cash-Free Ways to Give Back

You don’t need to fork over big bucks to make a difference. Here are worthwhile ways to give that don’t involve your wallet.

Sure, you’d love to give to charity, but sometimes the number of causes you care about or believe in simply outstrips your ability to write another check or buy another fistful of raffle tickets. That doesn’t mean you can’t contribute. There are lots of ways to give back and make a difference without stretching your budget. Consider these five money-free philanthropic moves.

Share your skills. Whether you have a knack for graphic design or know your way around a spreadsheet, chances are you have something that could benefit a local charity, says Pat Bohse, a nonprofit consultant with Bohse & Associates Inc. in Middletown, New Jersey. Contact the organization director and ask what type of expertise or help is needed. You may find volunteering a great opportunity to meet people, make friends, and get involved in the community.

Connect your contacts. Bohse says another important way you can give back is to “open up your Rolodex” and tell your well-heeled or influential friends about the organization. If you know someone who can help the cause, invite him or her to meet you and a member of the nonprofit’s leadership for lunch or coffee. If you know the owner of a business who can make an in-kind donation, put the right people in touch. Your introduction could lead to a beneficial new connection for the organization, she says.

Donate your rewards. Whether you have credit card rewards, airline miles, or other corporate rewards, you may be able to donate them to charity. Most major credit card companies and airlines have programs that allow you to donate earned points or miles to specific charities. Look for information on the rewards or miles section of their websites. From November 19 through December 3, 2014, you can share your MyPanera rewards with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign, an organization that strives to end child hunger in America. Simply visit your MyPanera online account during that time and select the option to share your rewards.

Find ways to contribute every day. You can incorporate giving into your daily activities, says Jason Franklin, Ph.D., CEO of New York City–based Bolder Giving, an organization that inspires people to give according to their full lifetime potential. If you have a gift-worthy occasion—such as a birthday, anniversary, or other holiday—coming up, organize a collection for a local charity in lieu of presents. Hosting a potluck dinner? Encourage guests to bring an item from your favorite charity’s wish list.

Be an advocate. Franklin says that you can help with issues you’re passionate about by getting involved to sway public opinion or policy. This may have an impact on changing laws or redirecting funding that will benefit various organizations. By writing letters or editorials, circulating petitions, and calling or visiting legislators, you can make a difference by using your voice. “The people who make decisions do look at how many people signed the petition or how many letters came in about a particular issue,” he says. “I worked in the White House years ago, and we counted the time it took for you to tell us an opinion—a letter versus a phone call or meeting. The more time you took to tell us your opinion, the more forceful the message.”