Every time there’s a special bulletin on the news about a natural disaster, like the 2013 tornadoes in Oklahoma and the devastation left in its wake, your heart breaks. When you hear about struggling families going without food and shelter, your heart breaks. What can you do to help? There are three simple ways everyone can support charities: with time, with money and with material goods. And not just small goods; for example, if you have an unused boat, take the time to donate boat to charity. The donation could keep a charity’s doors open, and therefore help a cause dear to your heart.
Donate Your Time
Not everyone has the money to spare, but most everyone can donate time for a charitable cause, even if they’re busy. Make a point of finding time and clear a day or at least a morning, afternoon or evening to help out. Pen it in or add it to your scheduler app. Bring your family or go with a friend so you can spend quality time bonding. For example, taking your children to a soup kitchen to volunteer not only shows your children you’re invested in them but that you value your community. The experience will open up an educational dialogue between you and your kids about those who are less fortunate and being thankful for what you have.
If you’re truly serious about helping charities, sign up for a charitable trip to another part of the country or another country for your vacation. There are all sorts of charitable programs that need help from people who want to travel abroad, including programs that:
- Build homes for the unfortunate
- Distribute food, clothing and medicine
- Help communities get fresh water
- Spread religious messages
- Clean up after natural disasters, like the tsunamis in Japan and the earthquakes in Haiti
- Tutor children and adults in English-language skills or in basic subjects such as math and science
The charity generally pays for travel costs, and you’ll get to sightsee in another locale during your downtime.
Donate Your Funds
Financial donations are necessary for nonprofits to buy supplies, pay staff and keep the lights running in their offices, so give money whenever possible. Even if you can only afford a small amount, cut back on one unnecessary luxury for a week — like a cup of coffee or a pastry — and use the money you would have spent on that for charity instead. If you can afford to give more, even better; for example, if you’ve received a bonus at work or another form of unexpected money, consider giving 10 percent to charity.
Get a receipt for your financial donation. As the Charles Schwab Corporation explains, financial donations to charities are usually tax deductible. Not only are you supporting your favorite causes, but you may be spending less on your taxes thanks to your generosity.
Donate Material Goods
If you’re short on money, consider decluttering your home and donating material goods instead. Charities that accept material good donations will either pass them on to those in need or refurbish the goods in order to sell them. Items to consider donating, both small and large, include:
- Food, particularly non-perishable
- Personal hygiene items
- Warm clothing and winter gear
- Old vehicles
If the charity is going to use the items rather than sell them, check with them about the quality of the items you intend to donate. Used items may or may not be acceptable. If they’re going to sell the items, the condition of them may not be as important.
Like financial donations, material good donations are usually tax deductible, based on the donated items’ value. With a large item like a boat or vehicle, you can easily prove the item’s value with used vehicle guides or with the help of the charity service.This is an excellent idea for anyone that is considering purchasing a new boat. You may not make as much as you would by outright selling your old boat for parts, but you gain so much more if you donate your boat to charity. First, it allows you free up the space it takes to store it at a local boat club or storage unit. Secondly, the tax deductive will be a major help during tax season. And while all this is happening you get to help out a number of great causes. It’s truly a win-win situation.
According to the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of Americans donate to charity, so you’re probably no stranger to charitable donations. However, there’s more than one way to support your favorite charity. If you’re used to donating money, try donating material goods or your time. If you’re a seasoned volunteer, see if you have anything around the house you can contribute. Try giving to charities in all of these three ways and you’ll feel better about doing your part to help.