Home > Personal Finance > 7 Ways to Support Charities, Even If You’re Broke

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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.

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