What you can do

08May08

Yesterday, I posted a shout-out to anyone who visited my blog from Stimey’s DC Metro Moms post. She had linked to me because I suggested that she donate her wedding dress to a charity like Brides Against Breast Cancer or The Brides’ Project.

It would be easy to donate a dress to a thrift shop – it would be out of your way, and someone else would appreciate it and use it. I suggested donating to a charity instead, because it’s a simple way to make a difference in someone else’s life with very little effort on your part.

The majority of my work experience is in the not-for-profit and charity world. I love the people, the atmosphere, and most of all, I love knowing that the work I’m doing is helping another person breathe a little easier. The thing is that I am capital-B Broke, most of the time, which means that I don’t have much disposable income to direct at charity donations. Instead, I seek out other ways I can support charities in their missions, and trust me, there is NO shortage of non-monetary ways to help!

The bonus to supporting charities or not-for-profits in non-monetary ways is that these ways tend to be either great decluttering opportunities and/or great for the environment! So, with that said, here are some easy things you can do to support not-for-profits in your community.

Donate time. If there is a cause you support in your area, consider becoming a volunteer. Most organizations will have ongoing opportunities for volunteers and one-time gigs. I volunteer as a Brownie leader, which takes up about 8-12 hours a month, not including the occasional camping trip. I also volunteer occasionally at fun events or festivals, which can often take as much or as little time as you’re willing to give. Don’t just volunteer for the fun jobs – envelopes need to be stuffed, too! Volunteering could be anything from taking tickets at a one-time event to being a once-weekly helper to sitting on a Board. There’s truly something for everyone!

Donate clothes, furniture, old electronics, etc. Most communities, but especially big cities, will have a variety of charities which will pick up your old belongings or have drop-boxes for used clothing. Once they’ve picked things up, one of two things will happen: they’ll either sell them at a per-pound rate to a company like Value Village, or they’ll use them to stock their own thrift store. Either way, you’re helping the environment by recycling your items, and the charity is making money. In Vancouver, Big Brothers and Developmental Disabilities Association both offer pick up, and DDA has drop-offs across the Lower Mainland.

Donate supplies. Is your office moving or closing, and you have a variety of office supplies to get rid of? Did you buy the wrong printer paper? Do you have an old filing cabinet you don’t use? Did you buy a new computer monitor or video camera? Try calling a local charity office and see if they can use them. This is especially effective with smaller charities.  Did you pick up a hobby like knitting or drawing, and then realize you didn’t like it? Your local Guides or Scouts group would probably be happy to take the yarn, pencil crayons, or other supplies off your hands.

Talk about them to your friends, family, and coworkers. Sure, almost everyone in Canada and the US will know about events like those weekend-long walks to end breast cancer, or the big charities like LiveStrong, SPCA, Amnesty, etc. Those charities don’t need much word-of-mouth support, but smaller-scale charities do, especially if they are connected to an illness or event that people are embarrassed to talk about. Tell people why and how you support their mission.

Come to events. Most charities will run special events, and they are only successful if they get butts through the door! Keep an eye on your community newspaper’s event listings, and take an hour or two to attend the events.

Remember them in your will, and tell them that you’ve done so. Okay, so we aren’t all rolling in cash, and we often want to leave our estate to our loved ones. Leaving a donation – whether cash or assets – to a charity in your will can get you a bit of a tax break and support your favourite cause(s) even after you’re gone. You can also ask that your loved ones ask for donations to a charity of your choice in lieu of flowers.

Write letters. This could be a letter to the paper saying “hey, I think this cause is important and you should do a story on it!” or a letter to your legislator asking for their support of the cause. (More on this tomorrow!)

If you do choose to donate money, consider just writing a cheque to the charity, rather than donating to a specific project. General donations are so useful, because they provide unrestricted funds. So often when we donate money, we want it to go towards specific programs or resources; however, without unrestricted funds, charities can’t pay rent or the utilities, buy paper to print on, or any of the other little staples they need to run programs and develop resources.

Many of the things I’ve mentioned will take you under two hours a week, if not less, but they’ll make a big difference for the staff and volunteers of the charity. They can take your donation of time, supplies, or support, and turn it into more effective programs and resources. Try one or more of them out, and see what happens. Some of these things will improve your mental health, and some will reduce your environmental footprint. In short – everybody wins!

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One Response to “What you can do”

  1. 1 onebagnation

    Have you heard about Cami Walker’s 29-Day Giving Challenge? You can read about it here: http://givingchallenge.ning.com/.

    I learned about it at unclutterer.com, and some of the comments offered interesting ways to give as well.
    Ann


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