7 Ways to Support Charities, Even If You’re Broke

4 Ways to Avoid Charity Scams

When college student Kara Skinner was short on cash, she started the blog Lover’s Quarrel, reviewing romance novels and including affiliate links in her posts. Thanks to her posts, she earned $60 from those links. But instead of splurging on pizza and a night out with friends, Kara decided to use her money in a different way: she donated it.

“I read I Am Malala and was so inspired,” Kara says. “Not everyone can get an education like I can because of where they live or their gender.”

Since launching her blog, Kara has donated to organizations like the Malala Fund and the Arbor Day Foundation. Because she uses her earnings from her website, she never has to dip into her bank account to contribute to charities.

Kara isn’t alone in her outlook: millennials are extremely generous when it comes to nonprofit causes. In fact, the majority of this age group donate to charity—an especially notable feat when you consider that debt is the biggest money-related stressor millennials face.

7 Ways to Donate to Charity

While that charitable mindset is admirable, finding the extra money to donate can be difficult. Between bills and debt payments, there’s often very little left over to give away.

However, a lack of money doesn’t have to hold you back from helping your community. You can make a big difference by doing one or more of the following things, without hurting your monthly budget.

1. Sign Up for AmazonSmile

If you shop on Amazon, you can help nonprofit organizations just by making routine purchases. Once a charity signs up with AmazonSmile, Amazon customers can select that organization to receive donations.

To take part in the program, visit Smile.Amazon.com instead of Amazon.com, and do all of your shopping from the new link. After you check out, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charity you choose.

That number might not sound like much, but it can add up over time. If you spent $1,000 on the site on regular purchases like toilet paper, laundry detergent, and other essentials, AmazonSmile would donate $5 to your selected charity.

2. Sign Up for Rebate and Reward Apps

If you’re short on cash, you can earn extra money to donate just by signing up for rebate and reward apps. Sign up for apps such as Ibotta and Checkout 51 and turn your receipts into cash.

These apps offer rebates for shopping at select stores or purchasing specific brands. After you’re done shopping, take a photo of your receipt with the app of your choice. Money will be deposited into your account.

Those rebates could add up to a hefty amount of cash. In fact, some people rack up hundreds with rebate and reward apps. With that money, you can make a sizeable donation without digging into your savings.

3. Donate Blood, Plasma, or Bone Marrow

If you’re a healthy adult, you can make a lifesaving donation. Those with severe illnesses or who have been in accidents often need blood, plasma, or bone marrow donations to recover. However, thousands of people cannot find a match, and there are sometimes donor shortages.

Donating your blood, plasma, or bone marrow can be a lifesaving act of charity in itself. In many cases, centers will pay you to donate plasma, allowing you to help someone in need while you earn extra cash to donate. When it comes to bone marrow, however, you’re not likely to be paid for donating—but you can still help save someone’s life.

To find a collection center near you, visit the American Red Cross, Donating Plasma, or Be the Match.

4. Cut Your Hair

Do you get compliments on your long, beautiful hair? You can use those lovely locks to help someone else going through a rough situation.

Children and adults with alopecia or those undergoing chemotherapy can experience hair loss. They often turn to wigs to cover their scalps and feel more confident. Human-hair wigs are the best you can buy; they look the most natural and can be washed and styled like regular hair.

However, human-hair wigs can cost thousands, and they are often unaffordable for many families. Several organizations try to ease the burden by collecting human hair to make wigs for both adults and children.

Locks of Love, Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program, and Wigs for Kids all accept hair for wigs. While each organization has its own requirements, in general, you must meet the following guidelines to donate your hair:

  • Your hair must be securely fastened in a ponytail.
  • If your hair is in a ponytail, the tail must be at least 8 to 12 inches long to be useable.
  • Your hair cannot be bleached or highlighted. In most cases, dyed hair that does not have any bleached sections is acceptable.

5. Donate Gently Used Clothing or Household Items

If you have old clothes, furniture, or household items lying around, you might be able to help someone in need.

You can donate items to organizations such as Goodwill, which can sell those items in thrift stores and use the proceeds to fund other programs—such as employment training and job placement services—for people in your community.

Use Goodwill’s locator tool to find a donation site near you.

6. Use Side Income to Fund Donations

If you’re like Kara and don’t have much money to donate with your current budget, you can start a side hustle to make extra cash. Side hustles allow you to work as much as you want, when you want. If you want to make a donation around the holidays, you can take on seasonal work to get the money.

Because it’s extra income, you won’t miss it after you give it away. And you won’t fall behind on your rent or student loan payments, either.

7. Collect Spare Change

Even your piggy bank can be turned into a source of donations. At the end of each day, empty your pockets and bag and deposit any loose change into a jar.

You can also boost your donations by looking for forgotten change on sidewalks or streets. One blogger collected $27 just by looking around at car washes, in gutters, and in parking lots.

Once your change jar is full, take it to the bank to turn it into cash before donating it to a charity of your choice.

Donating to Charity

When you’re broke, it’s hard to scrounge up the money to help others. But if you’re determined to help your community, thinking creatively can help you make a tangible difference. Try accounting for donations in your monthly budget to make it a regular part of your spending habits or try looking for credit cards that make it easy to give to charity. By taking on extra work or sacrificing your time, you can help change someone’s life.

Image: istock

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Feeling Charitable? These 5 Credit Cards Make Giving Easy

Affinity credit card programs offer a way to support the causes and charities near and dear to your heart. Here are some of the leading options.

When it comes to credit cards, there are countless options out there, whether you’re seeking to accumulate travel rewards, cash back or points for purchases.

But what if you want to do something a bit more altruistic with your credit card spending? Perhaps help save the planet, the polar bears or even the park down the street from your house?

There are a handful of credit cards designed to help you do good things for your community while you’re spending. Affinity credit card programs, as they’re often known, offer a way to support the causes and charities near and dear to your heart. Here are some options you may want to consider. (Note: It’s important you read the card details and fine print for the most current terms and conditions.)

1. Charity Charge MasterCard

Charity Charge is a unique option when it comes to credit cards designed to allow consumers to give back. Charity Charge allows you to decide which charity will be the recipient of your giving, rather than being locked into a partnership with one specific charity. In other words, you can give to a local school, a religious institution or any other charity of your choice. (You can read more about how this works here.)

“We literally have every nonprofit in the U.S. — every single one, in our system,” Stephen Garten, Charity Charge’s CEO and founder, said. Garten also noted that the company has about 1.5 million nonprofits in its database. “We’ve got card holders supporting hundreds of different nonprofits right now.” Charity Charge cardholders can select up to three charities to be the beneficiaries of the ongoing monthly donations.

Here’s how it works: The card, issued by CommerceBank, allows users to earn 1% cash back on every purchase, which can then be donated to any charity (or up to three charities) in the United States. The 1% that cardholders donate is tax deductible.

One final point worth noting: Charity Charge covers all expenses associated with processing your donations. Translation: There are no processing fees, so all the money you donate goes directly into the charity’s pocket.

2. Bank of America Susan G. Komen Card

If you’re seeking to make a contribution to breast cancer research, consider the Bank of America Susan G. Komen card.

For each new Susan G Komen card opened, the bank contributes $3 to the Texas-based foundation dedicated to education and research related to the causes, treatment and cure of breast cancer. In addition, the Komen foundation receives 0.08% of all retail purchases made with the card and $3 for each card renewal.

This card also earns you 1% cash back on purchases, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% cash back on gas.

3. World Wildlife Fund Card

Yet another charitable giving card from Bank of America, this one benefits an organization focused on preserving wilderness and reducing humanity’s footprint on the environment.

Founded in 1961, the World Wildlife Fund works in 100 countries protecting forests, oceans, wildlife and more.

The WWF card works in much the same way as the Komen card: The nonprofit receives $3 for each card opened, 0.08% of all net retail purchases made with the card and $3 for each annual card renewal.

4. American Express Members Give

Through the American Express Members Give program, cardholders can donate their rewards points to more than 1 million charities.

Much like Charity Charge, American Express members can give to multiple charities if they choose. The card allows members to donate to charities and nonprofits focused on health and human services, education, the environment and more. The donations are tax deductible.

5. Capital One No Hassle Giving Site

The Capital One No Hassle Giving Site is a slightly different spin on the idea of credit cards focused on giving back. Rather than offering a specific card that contributes a percentage to a particular charity, Capital One created a site that facilitates making donations to charitable organizations with your credit card. (You can see some of the best Capital One credit cards here.)

The credit card giant partnered with Network for Good and GuideStar to create its No Hassle Giving Site. Network for Good processes donations made through the site and disburses the money to the charities, while GuideStar provides the site’s database of charities. All of the charities listed are registered with the Internal Revenue Service.

Capital One credit card holders who are members of the company’s No Hassle Rewards program can also earn rewards points for their donations. And finally, when making a donation through the site, Capital One covers transaction fees, so 100% of the money you give goes to the charity.

Before Adding a New Card to Your Wallet …

It’s great that you want to find a card that can not only help you shop but also offers a reward system. But deciding which type of rewards credit card is only part of what you should think about before getting new plastic. After all, there are all types of rewards credit cards beyond the standard ones that give cash back or travel rewards, like those that reward students for good grades.And it’s perhaps most important you consider things like annual fees, interest rates and your spending habits to figure out if you can truly afford this new card. Before you apply, you’ll want to read all the fine print that comes with each card you’re considering to see what you’d be signing up for.

It’s also a good idea to review your credit, as many cards require you have a certain credit score to be eligible. (Note: Checking your own credit will not harm your scores in any way. You can see two of your credit scores for free, with updates every 14 days, on Credit.com.) Once you’ve reviewed your finances and checked your credit, you may also want to read more about the cards you’re considering. We’ve got a plethora of in-depth credit card reviews here that can help you get started.

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The Most Charitable Cities in America

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