Updated on 08.28.14

Personal Philanthropy

Trent Hamm

Twenty Ways to Improve the World, Even If You're Broke

So often, people assume that charity and philanthropy mean stretching an already-tight budget even further. “If I donated $100 to the food kitchen, I’d have to start using the food kitchen!” goes the common train of thought. (That’s not to say that donating money isn’t useful – it certainly is.)

Money can often be a very tight resource, but it’s far from the only resource you have. We all have so many things available to us to share with others that it only takes a moment of thought or effort to make a real difference in someone else’s life.

Here are twenty things anyone can donate to make the world a better place – and put a little bit of extra spring in their step – without blowing up their budget. Even better, many of these ideas will help you clean out your closets and declutter your home a bit. If you’re in need, this list might even help you find a charitable cause that can help you.

Make the World a Better Place on a Budget

Locks of Love (http://www.locksoflove.org/) is a non-profit that provides hairpieces to disadvantaged children suffering from long term medical hair loss. It’s easy to donate – just grow your hair out to ten or more inches in length, cut it off, stick it in an envelope, and help out a kid that could really use a boost.

The Red Cross (http://www.redcrossblood.org/) runs blood drives in your community quite regularly, and many large communities have places where you can always donate. Keep an eye on your community calendar, then stop by and donate. It’s just a little prick on your arm, then you get a cookie and a drink and you’re on your way, while your blood is used to save someone’s life.

Similarly, donate your bone marrow

Another renewable body resource you can donate is your bone marrow. The National Marrow Donor Program has a very detailed FAQ that discusses in detail the process of marrow donation.

Many workplaces make it possible to donate unused vacation time to people in dire need. Spend a day less at the beach next year and give that day to someone who is fighting a serious medical situation.

It’s all about the awareness for many charitable causes. Simply by having a band on your wrist or a ribbon on your lapel, you remind the people who see it of a charity and also let them know that there are people out there that passionately support the charity. Here’s a list of different charity awareness bracelets available.

Similarly, donate your bumper

Get a big old bumper sticker describing your favorite charity and slap it right on the back bumper of your car. The next time you’re stuck in traffic, your car is increasing the mindshare of the charity you care about.

Making Memories (http://www.makingmemories.org/) is an awesome charity that helps women with metastatic breast cancer live out their dreams. Many of the wishes granted by Making Memories involve weddings, so the charity makes great use of the wedding dress you’ve got hanging in your closet. Unused gowns are auctioned to earn more money for this charity’s work, so even if your dress doesn’t get used by a needful bride, it still can help them.

Did you buy too many shingles and now have a big pile of them just sitting in your garage? Got a few gallons of leftover paint from a job where the paint didn’t match or you overestimated your needs? Habitat for Humanity (http://www.habitat.org/) can put those resources to good use building homes for the needy instead of those supplies going to waste sitting in your garage.

Got extra flowers after a wedding or other event? Donate them. Contact your local florist or local hospital and ask about giving the leftover flower arrangements to people who need them for other events or who could really use them to brighten their day. You can do the same if you have flowers that grow around your home.

Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program (http://nikereuseashoe.com/) (check that site out – it has a great video explaining what they do in great detail) takes old, nasty running shoes and turns them into materials for public playgrounds and basketball courts. All you have to do is send ’em in!

LibriVox (http://librivox.org/) creates free audiobooks for the public domain, which enables everyone to have access to great free listening materials. Such books are used as educational materials for the visually impaired, radio material for public stations, and countless other good uses. You can participate by volunteering to read and record a public domain book. You’ll learn something and make the world a better place.

Many animal shelters will accept donations of old, clean carpet for bedding for the sheltered pets. Contact your local shelter the next time you update your carpeting and see if they can put that old carpet to use.

If you’re anything like me, the next time you clean out your cupboards, you’ll find a bunch of items way in the back that will make you wonder if you can ever possibly use them before they expire. These are perfect items to donate to your local food pantry, where someone in need will have those items on their dinner table this week.

Many charities would love to have that old computer of yours. It might not be up to snuff for watching downloaded high definition movies, but it’s perfectly good enough for a church to install Linux on and use for accounting purposes. Ask around at the local charities you support and, if you can’t find a home for it, ask TechSoup, which facilitates technology donations for nonprofit groups.

Our local high school has several groups that go through the neighborhoods once a year and ask for aluminum can and bottle donations. We simply store our used cans and bottles in a bin under the sink and when these groups come around, we gladly hand our cans and bottles over. If you don’t have such “to your door” service, many national groups facilitate the collection of cans and bottles – almost every Habitat for Humanity office will accept can and/or bottle donations.

Better World Books (http://www.betterworldbooks.com/) accepts donations of used books, which they then sell and give some of the proceeds in support of global literacy. If you have a bunch of books sitting around (and PaperBackSwap doesn’t excite you), this is a great way to turn a big box of used space into children who can read.

Got medications you no longer need (especially sealed items that you never got around to using)? Got items to help you treat a condition that you’ve overcome? World Medical Relief (http://www.worldmedicalrelief.org/) will happily take those items and distribute them in a non-discriminatory fashion to people in real medical need.

Everyone has a suit or two in their closet that they rarely wear. Yet, at the same time, there are people out there beating the pavement, looking for work, and they can’t afford to dress for success and impress their potential employers. Two great charities, Dress for Success (http://www.dressforsuccess.org/) and Career Gear (http://careergear.org/), do exactly that, transforming the suit taking up space in your closet into opportunities for life-changing success for people who are reaching hard for that brass ring.

One of the best things (in my opinion) that the Lion’s Club (http://www.lionsclubs.org) does is run their eyeglasses donation program (http://donateglasses.org/). When your prescription changes, you’ll get new glasses and your old ones no longer have any use. Give them to your local Lion’s Club and they’ll help someone out there in need with vision impairment.

Once you’ve read that copy of The New Yorker, check and see if there isn’t a place in your area that could put the item to use. Senior citizen’s centers are almost always happy to receive magazine donations. If that doesn’t fit the bill, try hospitals and libraries in your area.

One final thought: donate your body

When you pass on, your life has ended, but you have the ability to give the gift of life to others because of the life you left behind. Donate your organs and tissues to people who can use them. OrganDonor.gov (http://www.organdonor.gov/) provides everything you need to know about the need for organs and tissues and about how easy it is to be an organ donor.

The biggest lesson from this list is that we all have a lot of resources within us and around us that are of value and use to others. Sharing them, especially when it’s “no skin off our backs,” does nothing but make the world a better place. It makes you feel better, too.

I’ve collected these ideas from many different sources over the years. There are many great sources for ideas similar to (and overlapping with) these, including How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist by Nicole Bouchard Boles, The Generosity Plan by Kathy LeMay, and Give a Little by Wendy Smith. If these ideas excite you, dive into these books for more ideas than I could possibly share.

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  1. kimberly says:

    These are great! One thing to note about donating materials to Habitat for Humanity: some local chapters only take items that are unopened and in its original packaging–definitely check with yours first. So if you have more than half a bundle of roof tiles leftover from building a shed (like we do), and your local Habitat for Humanity chapter doesn’t accept opened items (like ours), then you might have to find another organization in need.

  2. Tristan says:

    The title says “even if you’re broke.” I would just like to make a note that most people in need of cash are already aware of… if you need money, donate plasma! You get PAID to do something good. This has been revisited countless times but I thought I would reiterate it. The first visit takes a long time (required physical) but after that it only takes about an hour where I used to go.

    Downside? Right now, at least in my area, there is a surplus of plasma. I’m guessing this stems from poor economy and everyone being strapped for cash. But what this means for the donor is a smaller payment. Oh well. Still easy and quick money!

  3. Sandy L says:

    Great list, but I’m surprised that “Donate your Time” wasn’t on here.

    Also, donating your skills. Everyone has skills. If you can hold a paintbrush, you can probably paint. But some people are good at accounting, or cleaning, or organizing. It’s not just trades people who have skills. All of us do.

  4. ami says:

    I love this list. Sometimes it’s easy to feel discouraged and useless when funds are low – this list helps us to remember that we can still help. If we’re open minded, there are many ways to help others who are less fortunate.

  5. ami says:

    forgot to add: you can also donate your time and talent! When I lost my job, I volunteered as a photographer, as a reading helper, and as a social media advisor. The experience made me feel good, and I developed marketable skills and great network contacts at the same time.

  6. I never knew it was possible to send in shoes! We wear ours till they are holey but knowing there is a place to recycle them is awesome!

  7. valleycat1 says:

    My optometrist has a donation bin in his office for old eyeglasses. Very convenient to toss in the old once you’ve picked up the new pair!

    Also, our library & post office have collection bins for old cell phones. The local women’s shelter and service clubs use them to reprogram for a safe way for these women to be able to contact family & friends without being tracked to their location by the abuser.

  8. Monica says:

    What a great list Trent! There are a multitude of options – if you can’t do one thing on this list, chances are you could do another (or several).

    Slightly off topic (or more than slightly), but since there were several wedding references I thought I’d mention it. I recently heard a wonderful idea if you dont’ want to donate your wedding dress but would like to find a second use for it. You can have it cut up and made into a christening gown for your children. I thought that was such a neat idea! If someone in your family sews, it can also be a frugal idea.

  9. Jenn says:

    RE: “DONATE YOUR BODY When you pass on, your life has ended, but you have the ability to give the gift of life to others because of the life you left behind”
    For those interested, you can donate organs RIGHT NOW. Living donation can sometimes bring better results for the transplant recipients, plus there are so many people in need. You will go on to live a perfectly normal life, but with a sense of real purpose. I donated a kidney to my sister years ago, and was accepted into the military AFTER I had already donated! I still regularly donate blood too. If I can’t give money, I can give what my body doesn’t need. (Plus I joke with my sister about the instant weight loss. :o) Hehehe)

  10. Jane says:

    You can also cut the boxtops off of General Mills products and give them to your local school. You’d be surprised how many of those you have on your boxes.

  11. beth says:

    What a great list Trent.

    You can also donate rice to the World Food Program by playing word games on http://www.freerice.com

    Or you can donate 1.1 cups of food by the “click to give” program at the http://www.thehungersite.com/clickToGive/

  12. jessica says:

    Nursing mothers can donate their milk! I had an over supply with my DD and donated 22 gallons worth to the Mother’s Milk Bank of Ohio. Others donate through milkshare. There are 13 Human Milk Banks across the US. There are certain requirements for donors.

  13. Marie says:

    Thanks for the list! When I found out I was going to have chemotherapy for my cancer and was going to lose all my hair, I went and lopped the butt-length mass off and gave it to locks for love. It wasn’t going to do me any good, it might as well go for a good cause. I wish I’d known about the medication donations. I had 2 refills of anti-nausea medication left after my chemo that were free for me, and could have done someone without prescription insurance enormous good, but I couldn’t find anywhere that would take them.

  14. Daina says:

    This is a great list! Local animal shelters will often take old bed linens and towels for animal bedding as well. Check with your local shelter – for example, mine couldn’t take my comforter or my fitted sheet, but they were happy to get my old, stained knit blanket and would have taken any other blankets, flat sheets or towels.

  15. Becky says:

    Thanks for the ideas Trent!

    I have now started the process of becoming a bone marrow donor. I’ve wanted to do so for a while, and you provided just the reminder I needed.

  16. Daina says:

    Oh, and my local animal shelter also wanted newspapers — something lots of people have on hand to share!

  17. Tammy says:

    You didn’t mention to donate your SKILLS. My husband helps work on Habitat for Humanity projects and I sew lots and lots of quilts for homeless shelters, hospices, and hospitals.

    Even if you don’t have useful skills, donating your TIME is great too. Food banks often use local volunteers to stock their warehouses, sort food, and help their customers, and that’s just one example. Volunteers are often desperately needed in senior centers, schools, hospices, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, meals-on-wheels programs and on and on and on. Even if you’re not physically able to do much, you can still make phone calls for charitable donations, take tickets at fundraisers, and other ‘sit down work. Anyone with the desire can help their community.

  18. CSM says:

    This is great — I’m in the process of decluttering my apartment and was trying to figure out what do to with my wedding dress. Making Memories looks like a great organization; I’ll be sending my dress to them.

  19. LP says:

    If you’re broke but have internet access you might consider donating a few minutes each day on websites like care2.org, thehungersite.com, gamesthatgive.net, ecologyfund.com, freerice.com, freepoverty.com, etc. These websites allow you to donate to charities through the power of advertising dollars. You might simply click a button or you may play a game or even learn something.

    If you have your own computer, or at least a flash drive and know how to run an app from there, you might look at Firefox extensions that give to charity. I can’t think of any offhand (I switched to Chromium), but I know one replaces ads with other ads and PSAs that earn money for charities. Another takes up a constant portion of your screen for advertising that goes to charity.

  20. Johanna says:

    There are some good ideas here. But keep in mind that what an organization needs most is not necessarily the same as what you’re most interested in giving. If you send in or drop off an item that the organization has no use for, they then have to figure out how to store or dispose of it, which takes money and time, which means your donation could be doing more harm than good. Always ask whether your donation is needed, and be prepared to take it away with you if it’s not.

    And since you mentioned medications: Never donate expired or unsealed medication (unless it’s specifically asked for, although I’m not sure why it would be). Disposing of large quantities of unusable donated medication can be not only difficult and time-consuming but also dangerous.

    On cash donations: Maybe you can’t afford to donate $100 to the food pantry, but maybe you can donate $10, or $5. If everybody who could afford to donate $5 did so, the food pantry would be a lot better off. Unfortunately, there’s the possibility that by making a small cash donation, you’ll get your name on a mailing list and get swamped with fundraising materials that negate the value of your donation. But it looks like the Wendy Smith book talks mostly about small cash donations, so maybe she says what to do about this.

  21. cv says:

    This is a great list! Be careful about donating technology, though. Most small nonprofits I’ve worked with (5-10 employees) use special software for accounting, volunteer management, case file management, fundraising and other things that you aren’t likely to have copies of already. Donating a computer will mean the nonprofit has to buy new licenses, clear off your old files, install the operating system that will work with their network, install all the new software, etc.

    It’s a wonderful thought, but be sure the computer you want to donate will actually function well when loaded down with the byzantine database software and hooked into the aging network that the nonprofit uses. Otherwise you’re just cluttering up their office and passing the disposal problem along to someone else.

  22. Jonathan says:

    Involve your children in these efforts, too. This is a great opportunity to show your kids that you care about your community, and many of these suggestions are ones that the whole family can do together. My kids can help clean out the garage and donate supplies; my kids can donate their old books, magazines, toys, and clothes; my 7yr old loves donating his old glasses.

    Thanks for the great list!

  23. Robin Crickman says:

    A friend told me about a wonderful program her priest got her involved with. She herself had very little, but did live on a small farm. She got seeds from the program in the Spring to plant a vegetable and fruit garden. Come harvest she kept what she could use and the excess was donated to people in need through her church. Since gardens often produce more than one family can use, this both helps them and helps others.

  24. Johanna says:

    “Always ask whether your donation is needed,”

    A further thought: Be especially careful if the organization you’re donating to isn’t the organization that will ultimately use the items. For example, if your church is making care packages to give to some other group to take to the flood victims in Pakistan, the people at your church might not be experts on what’s needed and what’s not needed.

    Better to make your donations to Pakistan in the form of cash, and find new homes for your old stuff within your own community.

  25. Miia Ranta says:

    Here in UK some animal shelters ask for shredded paper, which is where ours would go if we wouldn’t use it to make the garden waste bin contents drier.

  26. Catherine says:

    Please consider other hair donation organizations like Pantene Beautiful Lengths
    instead of Locks of Love. The Pantene program is a lot more upfront about what is done with donated hair and their requirements are not quiet as strict. Locks of Love has gotten a lot of flack in the past for the amount of hair that they sell (money that goes back into the organization) vs the amount of wigs that are made.

    As always, do your research before donating any items – it’s not helpful to anyone if you waste postage sending an item that will be thrown away due to usability when it arrives.

  27. Gal @ Equally Happy says:

    Just a note on the bumper stickers and bracelets, those are usually not such good ways to donate. You end up spending money to buy them and the charity actually gets very little of it. It’s sort of like those yellow “support the troops” ribbons. Instead of buying the ribbons, bumper stickers and bracelets, just give the money straight to the charity.

    Otherwise, this is a great list Trent. Thank you for the reminder of how much we have to give even when we don’t think we have that much.

  28. Maureen says:

    I think the best way to contribute is to donate your time and talents. I have been a volunteer in schools for many years, which has been very rewarding. I still volunteer at my childrens’ elementary school even though my kids are now university students! I am proud to say that they have followed my example and are generous with their time too.

  29. valleycat1 says:

    The prescribing doctor will also take back unused prescription meds – they have an avenue to get them to people in need. When my dad passed away he had a large supply (because he got multiple months’ worth through an online pharmacy) & the doctor’s office was thrilled to get them. They will also dispose of expired prescription meds safely, or can advise you how to.

    The United Nations has an online volunteer program that provides to organizations world wide – jobs include translating, setting up websites, database management, grant writing or finding grant sources, preparing course descriptions or developing courses or other educational programs. It’s easy to sign up for their monthly newsletter or go online anytime to search for possible jobs.

  30. Here are two that have worked for me:
    Donate “free after rebate” toiletries to an emergency pantry and a shelter for homeless youths. (Note: Diabetes monitors and adult diapers are regularly offered free after rebate, too. World Medical Relief might need these products. So might a social services agency that helps seniors and diabetics.)
    Offer to pet-sit or keep an eye on someone’s place in exchange for that person making a donation to a good cause.

  31. MattJ says:

    Another note on bumper stickers…

    Remember that when you slap a sticker on your car, you become a kind of ambassador for that cause, so you need to give a little thought to whether or not you’re a considerate driver. No need to generate ill will for a cause you claim to support.

    I’m mostly joking here, but if people ever tell you that you drive like a maniac, you’re probably a top-5% bad drive putting a bumper sticker on your car probably isn’t a good donation to that cause. Consider bumper stickers for causes you oppose, and remember to park like a jerk as well for full effect.

  32. Molly says:

    Just a heads up – locks of love still charges the wig recipients for their wigs, even though the hair is donated. It’s a lower cost, but still. I think Pantene might have a free cancer-wig program (Locks of Love is for kids with alopecia).

  33. Jackie says:

    Great list Trent. I’m having a little day dream about attempting to do each of these at least once.

  34. Greg says:

    Great list! Unfortunately, they won’t let me donate my blood because I spent six months in the UK as a student during the years of the Mad Cow Disease.

  35. Debbie M says:

    Greg, blood donating regulations can change over time. Make sure to check back periodically and see if they’ve changed their policies about that.

  36. Sara A. says:

    Trent, I would NOT recommend donating to Locks of Love. I sent them 3 long ponytails before I read that, out of the thousands of hair donations they receive, only around 300 actual wigs are made per year.

    From my research, Wigs for Kids (http://www.wigsforkids.org/) is the much better option for donating hair. Although Locks of Love is still a legitimate charity, it is my opinion that Wigs for Kids makes better use of your donations.

  37. On donating hair: If you don’t have 10 inches to cut off, Pantene Beautiful Lengths accepts 8 inches of hair. They also make wigs for cancer patients. I donated my hair to them last month.

  38. Arianna says:

    Thank you for posting this! You do a great job of posting lists that go beyond the usual ideas.

  39. Vivek says:

    This is a great post, Trent.

    I grew up in India and in our culture, there is an age-old saying (I’ll do my best to translate): Just like Ghee (clarified butter) purifies the body and burning camphor purifies the air, giving away a portion of your earning to those in need, without the expectation of anything in return, purifies the wealth you earn.

    Think about this – whatever we earn is because we give less and take more. For example, you buy onions at $0.50 a lb and sell them at $1/lb. The only way to purify that what you earn is by the practice of “dakshina” (there is no English equivalent of the word – but loosely translated it means selfless giving).

  40. Wren says:

    Ditto the kudos for Pantene Beautiful Lengths program. Note, however, they athey do not accept hair with permanent dye or gray hair.

    If anyone is in the San Jose area, Sacred Heart Community Center has a career closet for men and women and gladly accepts all kinds of office supplies and craft supplies to use with their after school toturing programs.

  41. MattJ says:

    #39 Vivek

    Think about this – whatever we earn is because we give less and take more.

    When I think about that, I don’t find it to be true. Generally, we earn because we provide a product or service that someone wants and is willing to pay to get. For example, when I was in India, I saw extremely poor people pedalling flatbed tricycles loaded down with vegetables – they go miles and miles like that. The effort involved is impressive. The famer needed someone to take his vegetables to market, and the people at the market needed someone to bring the vegetables to them. If the trike riders were buying at the farm and selling at the market, I certainly hope they’re selling for more than they’re buying. There is value in providing a service, no?

  42. Daniel Todd says:

    Hey Guys,

    I wanted to mention that another way to make a difference every day is to download and use the Globalmojo web browser to support your favorite cause or charity! It costs nothing as all money comes from Yahoo and other search and shopping partners when you visit their sites.

    It would be a favor to me and a great help to your favorite non-profit if you check it out. Please take 4 minutes to watch the two videos on our home page to learn more. http://www.globalmojo.com.


  43. Wendy Smith says:

    Great list and thanks for mentioning my book Give a Little! I will share this w/lots of folks!

    Bravo on acknowledging the power every one of us has to make a difference!

  44. Cheryl says:

    I was going to donate my wedding gown to Making Memories until I found out they require a $40 donation to donate your gown.

  45. VJ Pulver says:

    Hey – put your money where your mouth is: join Peace Corps for a couple years and then do some time as an AmeriCorps*VISTA. Look at the wolrd through new eyes…make the choice to live at poverty level and see how you fair…do some community service…give back in a REAL way! I consider this tithing…you may have an education, but experience coupled with education can make you an amazing asset as a force for change.

    In Sunny Santa Fe
    USAF: 1978-2002
    PC Ukraine: 2005-2007
    AmeriCorps*VISTA: 2007-2010

  46. Bill says:

    @41 MattJ & #39 Vivek

    I’ve been to India and seen kids powering carts loaded with goods for market that seem to defy gravity. Both of what you said is fine, making a profit is good and paying homage to your religion or homage to your culture is fine too as long as it is optional.

  47. Jane says:

    Two people suggested the web sites like thehungersite.com. These are great and the hunger site offers other opportunities to contribute free to animal rescue, literacy, breast cancer, the rainforest and children’s health. I go there every morning and click on all of them. Takes only a minute. Also, you can donate books to your library. Most of us get so much from the library and it is nice to give back. freecycle.com is a way to give to people in need and recycle and declutter at the same time. If you are not yet aware of freecycle, it is an online recycling site (you sign up for the group in your own community) that allows you to post things you want to give away or post to get things you are looking for free. Not everyone is in need but often you get requests from the impoverished elderly, needy women setting up a new home from scratch, Girl Scouts etc. Someone kindly gave me my walker. These two suggestions aren’t totally free but they are inexpensive. When the supermarket has BOGO sales, I just drop the free one in the food pantry donations barrel at the exit. If you go to yard sales, there are often brand new things. If the price is really low, I get them and donate them to a local shelter. Giving, as we all know, gives you so much more back than you are giving away. It is a major source of pleasure in my life.

  48. Ryan says:

    I’d like to point out DonorsChoose.org. A site where teachers in need of money for supplies for students post their projects and people can choose which to donate to. You can donate to as little as 5 dollars, and it’s very easy. You can use a credit card directly on the site or another method such as paypal.

  49. Jessica says:

    I donated my hair twice to Locks of Love (fyi – you need at least 10 inches of virgin, undyed, untreated hair), and haevn’t yet gotten around to sending in Round 3 to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. I did read some criticisms of LoL that said that just the hair is donated, and that families do still need to pay for the hairpiece – I didn’t check these out though so I can’t say for certain what the process is.

  50. Katie says:

    I would also add donating books. My local library (which I use frequently) accepts donations. What they don’t need for their collection they sell. This money funds children’s reading programs and several city wide book clubs.

  51. MFN says:

    Many opportunities (mammograms, animalcare & rescue, food, environment etc) for “Daily Click” contributions at: http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/tpc/ERB_102409_BCS

    There is also an enormous need for ostomy supplies in the US and wordwide – please never ever toss out unused supplies! Donate to your local hospital or WOCN nurse, or search online for organizations that distribute products.

  52. DanT says:

    We donated a bunch of old books to the hospital’s cancer ward. A lot of people come in there 2-3 times a week for 1-2 hours at a time, and have to sit there undergoing chemo or whatever (thankfully I have no personal experience with this) and about all they can do is read or watch TV.

  53. Claire says:

    If you’re looking to donate your books in a way that’s more direct, and also lots of fun, you might consider joining BookCrossing. M
    embers stick or write a number and a short message in their books, then leave them behind in public places for others to find and enjoy. If you feel that freely sharing books makes the world a better place, this might be for you.

    Also: Kiva. You can donate money and get it back later, since it’s a loan.
    You’ll support someone’s small business and you will almost always be paid back. You can then take the money back or reloan it.

  54. Barbara vogel says:

    The Road Not Traveled has always been my favorite poem and you did such a lovely job of tying it to everday decisions and how making certain life choices forces us to forego others. There are no guarantees that the choices we make will pan out for the best in the short run but in the long run, they may ultimately lead to a path that makes us more content and whole.

  55. Karen says:

    I donate my hair (12 inches) to Wigs for Kids for the third time. However I will look into Pantene since it takes forever to grow it out – 8 inches might be easier to achieve. Thanks for the information.

  56. If you have any frequent-flier miles (left over from better times) you may be able to donate these to help people fly to medical centers for specialized treatment.

  57. flybigd says:

    Great list! Learned some things I didn’t know. However, as a career librarian who’s worked lots of different places, I can assure you that libraries do not want old magazines. I know that English as a Second Language programs do like Readers Digest, because it’s written at a low literacy level, so try those for that title at least.

  58. Cheryl says:

    I’m with flybigd. But sometimes libraries have a “free table” where you can leave magazines that are less than 1 yr old for others to pick up.

  59. Jessica says:

    The hardest thing I had to do was donate my wedding dress. The reality was that I will never wear it again. Again, thanks for posting.

  60. Joanna says:

    Seconding the donating magazines to hospitals. DanT pointed out that some patients have to be there for hours at a time for dialysis, chemo, etc.

    A lot of office buildings (mine included) get a bunch of unsolicited magazines. Not trade mags, either. Nobody signed up for them, yet every month we get Glamour, Cosmo, People, US, various Bridal magazines, AARP, Oprah, etc, so this is also a good thing for an office to organize.

  61. linda jones says:

    Another win-win donation suggestion:
    We were disposing of all our VHS tapes (some self-recorded) and were looking for a way to recycle them. After much research I located ACT Recycling and Employment Services, http://www.actrecycling.org/
    in Columbia, MO. They are a sheltered workshop employing the developmentally disabled. In addition to recycling VHS, they recycle a wide variety of computer and other media. Of course one must pay the shipping charges to send the media to them, but at Media Mail rates, it’s quite reasonable.

  62. Recycle your no-longer needed office paper, junk mail, catalongs and newspapers to a school, senior center or church that has a paper recycling bin.

    Paper prices do swing quite a bit, but when the prices are good the bin owners will be happy to take your paper.

  63. SLCCOM says:

    Donate old hearing aids, too. The Lion’s clubs take them, or just give them to any audiologist and ask them to give them to a needy patient.

    Old wedding gowns, prom gowns or other fancy fabrics are welcome by the Nebraska-based Mary Madeline Project. They turn them into lovely gowns for stillborn babies so the parents can have a beautiful image to remember.

  64. littlepitcher says:

    Donate a row. Check with your local agriculture department on this one. Designate one row (or more) of your garden specifically for donation and give the produce to your church, Red Cross, or other organizations which feed the hungry.
    You can also “donate” your non-functional computer equipment to repairmen who can recycle the parts.

  65. Brie says:

    You can “donate for free” by taking advantage of programs that give an organization a commission/donation for Internet orders clicked through that organization’s link. For example, I routinely use 2clickfundraising.com to donate to a hospice when I make Amazon purchases. The hospice gets between 4 and 7.5% of my order, and the pricing is the same to me as it would be otherwise. 2clickfundraising.com is the only site I know of that offers a “menu” of possible donation recipients, the list of sites for which each organization will receive a commission, and the amount that the organization will receive. I have a feeling that there are other such sites, though. Many organizations also have direct Amazon links from their own web pages.

  66. Brie says:

    @littlepitcher: My father used to have a 1.25-acre garden, and once grew a crop of sweet potatoes specifically for the local food bank. When the sweet potatoes were ready, the food bank arranged for Scouts to harvest the crop – 1500 pounds’ worth!

  67. Amanda says:

    #21 become a volunteer writer http://bit.ly/bcX3Yf

  68. skrpune says:

    Just to add to the choices of places to donate hair to, and to clarify a bit:
    – Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths: works with the American Cancer Society and donates wigs into the Wig Bank; provided free of cost to recipients.
    – Children With Hair Loss: another organization that provides wigs free of cost.

  69. Laura Grace says:

    Many other people have mentioned this already but I’d also like to comment about how “Locks of Love” is not the way to go if you want to donate your hair for a good cause. They just have a big name while doing nothing for the people they say they help. “Locks of Love” wasn’t even approved by the Better Business Bureau til this year!! (how they got approved is a mystery to me but if you look at their spending amounts, much of it is advertisement and programs… not for making wigs) They refused to report how much money they make (and they are making A LOT off of selling wigs, selling donated hair to other wig companies, and holding an annual dinner that racks in TONS of $$) and, in comparison to how much estimated money they make, use very little of it to make the wigs for children who have to pay for the wigs in the first place (~113 wigs made last year)!!!! Additionally, they refuse to even sell wigs to children who have gone through chemo because they say that their charity is for kids who have a sort of medical condition that affects their ability to grow their own hair.
    “Locks of Love” has been fooling kind-hearted people into lining their own greedy pockets while still not doing the good that they say they do. I have been growing and cutting my hair for donation since I was 15 (I am now 22) and it is something I do out of love and compassion. I donated to “Locks of Love” two times before I found out what they really do behind the scenes. It is upsetting that there are still people out there who support “Locks of Love” without knowing how bad they are as a NON-PROFIT company! I hope that with more dialogue, more people will stop telling others to donate to “Locks of Love” and instead will promote a company that actually does what it says it does. (I personally like what Pantene Beautiful Lengths is doing and have donated to them many times).

  70. Tanisha says:

    I would probably donate my eyes and kidney after my death , so that it is useful for Mankind.

  71. And for those who have no income or are very unemplyed, I’ve got a few more ideas here.

  72. This is a great list and gives me many ideas for ways to donate. If you have just a little bit of money to donate, like $25, you can band together with others to do good at kiva.org. A $25 loan helps micro-entrepreneurs and once it is paid off, it can be re-loaned, or you can have it back if you need it.

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