Eight creative ways to give back, beyond money

Giving back doesn’t have to mean giving money. Here are a few ways to make a nonfinancial donation to causes you care about.

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Are you looking for a way to give back to causes you care about? Chances are you’re not alone. Millennials and Gen-Z are known for having distinct priorities and preferences to when it comes to charitable giving, and they are making a huge impact when it comes to crowdfunding for charitable causes.

But sometimes you may not be able to donate as much as you’d like to your cause. The good news is there are many things you can do to help people and organizations around you that don’t require money. Here are eight charitable ways to give back for free.

1. Volunteer for a cause you care about

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, one in four adults volunteered through an organization last year, but only one in five people age 16 to 32 volunteered. Organize a group of friends or coworkers and sign up to swing hammers at a house build or serve lunch at a local soup kitchen. Don’t forget to ask whether your employer offers paid time off for doing charity work. Not sure where to find local volunteer opportunities? Check sites like VolunteerMatch and All for Good.

2. Become a virtual volunteer

Be of service, without even leaving home. Many organizations are happy to have one-time help on projects that involve graphic design, proofreading, or gathering research. Sites like Catch a Fire, UN Volunteers, Idealist, and others run listings for virtual volunteer opportunities.

3. Help raise awareness on social media

It only takes a quick click to like or share news about an organization that’s doing great things for your community. Also, some companies make small donations to selected charities every time you follow them on a social media platform. Easy.


Altogether, Americans volunteered nearly 7.8 billion hours in 2015, worth an estimated $184 billion. – the Corporation for National and Community Service


4. Donate your shopping bargains

You can actually pick up lots of store items — from boxes of tea to bottles of shampoo — for free. How? By combining great sale prices with manufacturers’ coupons, known as “coupon matchups.” Sites like The Krazy Coupon Lady and Coupon Mom help you spot freebie deals at your local stores. Donate nonperishable food items to local food banks. Shelters and churches love getting personal-care donations like shampoo and toothpaste. Many of the items are used to create personal hygiene kits for homeless individuals.

5. Shop with philanthropically minded retailers

Consider buying items you need from companies that’ll give a portion of the sale to charity. For instance, Patagonia donates 1% of its sales to environmental organizations. TOMS shoes “One For One” program donates shoes, eye care, safe water, and more to people in need. Through its “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program, eyewear company Warby Parker donates money for glasses to nonprofit partners.

6. Get your craft on

If you like to knit, crochet, or call yourself a sewing enthusiast, use up some of your stockpiled yarn and fabric. It’s fun and easy to make hats for preemie babies, socks and scarves for the homeless, or quilts for nursing home residents. If you’re not sure where to take your goods, call the volunteer services department of your local health system or hospital before you start to see what they need.

7. Clean out your closet

Declutter your home and help others at the same time. Donate clothes and shoes you no longer wear to a local charity like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, and donate old towels to a local animal shelter. Better yet, check to see if you can set up a donation box at your workplace. Spread the word among coworkers that you’ll collect their donations and drop them off at a designated charity.

8. Gift your credit card rewards

Many credit card companies let you donate your frequent-flyer miles or reward points to a charity. Keep in mind these rewards may not be tax-deductible as donations; check with your tax professional. If you can donate your points online, your card issuer may let you choose from a group of approved charities. If your card issuer doesn’t allow direct donations or doesn’t list your favorite charity, just redeem the reward points to your account. Once you collect the award, donate an equal amount to your favorite charity.

Contributing to the greater good doesn’t have to mean cleaning out your wallet. There are endless ways to help out that just require a little time, thought, and effort.