No amount of giving is too small. Whether you donate to a rehabilitation center for the homeless, or volunteer for an hour to help organize a food drive, whatever you have to give will brighten the lives of others – and benefit your soul as well. After all, what goes around comes around, all in the name of karma. So why not spread the love in any way you can? Here are some ways for doing just that.
Take your pick
First, think about what you’re passionate about (besides your sweetie!). Do you feel strongly about underprivileged children? Literacy? AIDS awareness? Cancer research? Women struggling with poverty in developing countries? Homelessness in your community? How about homeless pets? There are so many causes to choose from. Simply choose something that touches your heart.
Do the math
Decide on the amount of money you have to give. Even if your budget is stretched to the max, you may be surprised to find a few dollars here and there, like from foregoing the latte or one less cocktail after work. Or, instead of seeing a movie in the evening, attend a matinee and give the dollars you saved to a Salvation Army bell ringer. Remember, no amount of money is too small a gift.
An excellent way to contribute is through Kiva.org, an organization that was featured recently on Oprah. According to the site, Kiva.org lets you lend to a specific entrepreneur in the developing world – empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty.” Contributing just $25 to the person of your choice can mean the difference between a life of grinding poverty and financial prosperity and independence. You choose the entrepreneur, whose stories, goals and photos are offered on the website. You can even keep in contact with the person you’ve helped through e-mailed updates. When the money you’ve lent is repaid, you have the choice of keeping the money or loaning it to someone else.
Give up your goods
This is obvious, but still warrents a mention… Of course, everyone has stuff they don’t need. Cleaning out your closet (or garage or attic) and donating your unneeded belongings to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, a women’s shelter, AIDS charity or church is probably the easiest way to contribute to those in need. And don’t forget to get a receipt for your taxes!
What’s your expertise?
Many people find their time is just as stretched as their finances. But even volunteering an hour or two a month can make a difference. Write down the skills you have to offer. Are you savvy with software? Are you a “people person” who likes to talk on the phone? Are you good at promoting something you feel strongly about? These are valuable skills that nonprofit organizations can use.
Find a local nonprofit
A good place to start is VolunteerMatch.org, a nationwide service that matches volunteers with nonprofits. More than 30,000 nonprofits use VolunteerMatch to recruit volunteers. All you have to do is log onto the site and input your zip code to view the list of volunteer opportunities in your area. Volunteer opportunities may also be found on your city or community website. Do an online search for your city, or contact your Chamber of Commerce or local religious groups to see what’s available.
At the end of the day, the best way to give is to make a habit of giving. You can give in small ways, but make it a regular (weekly, monthly, yearly) part of your life. The feeling of well-being you get is worth any effort, not to mention those who will reap the rewards of your efforts. Whether you volunteer to plant a community garden, fundraise for your child’s school, mentor a teen, help out at a pet adoption or donate money to your favorite cause, you’ll be making the world a brighter and more enlightened place.
Other nonprofit websites
Americorps.org is a network of service programs that promote education, health, affordable housing, mentoring youth, computer skills, after-school programs, cleaning parks and streams, among other endeavors.
Greenpeople.org lists humane societies, animal shelters and pet adoption organizations nationwide.
Seniorcorps.org matches people over 55 with organizations that need their skills.
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