Dear Lifehacker, I'd love to give to charity, but I don't have a lot of spare cash. How can I get involved in a way that really helps people? Thanks, Two Shekels
Giving is a good notion, regardless of what your income level is. Studies have shown that spending money on others can have a better effect on our personal happiness than spending it on ourselves. However, there are plenty of ways to contribute without going into debt.
Volunteer Your Time Instead Of Money
Donating money isn't the only way to benefit your long-term health and happiness while helping others. One study showed that people who volunteered their time tended to live longer than those who didn't -- it even showed that doing so because you want to help others has a greater effect than doing so to benefit yourself. Of course, while you're there, you'll potentially learn some great DIY skills for free, as well as potentially getting a reference in return for your time.
Searching online should suggest plenty of possibilities, and you can also find places to volunteer at the old fashioned way: hitting up any place that might need help. Churches, hospitals, schools, animal shelters, hospices, and other community organisations always need help with something. Call up any facility like this near you and, if they don't have a spot open for you to volunteer at, they'll know someone who does.
Donate Your Computer's Idle Time
Technology has made it easy for even the most busy people to give back without much effort by letting you volunteer your computer's idle time.
Researchers have an ongoing need for massive computing power, and sourcing that from volunteers helps enormously. Projects such as [email protected], BOINC, the World Community Grid, and [email protected] allow you to contribute CPU cycles when you're not using your computer towards tasks like understanding proteins, analysing weather cycles, and even curing diseases.
Regularly Donate Blood
Hospitals and other medical facilities have a consistent need for blood donations. Injury and sickness don't wait for someone to come by and offer up their arm for an hour or so. Hit the Australian Red Cross Blood Service site to find your nearest location.
Take Your Old Stuff To A Charity Store
You may already have some unwanted items lying around that a family in your community needs. Charities such as the Salvation Army, Vinnies and Lifeline willingly accept donations. If you're looking to clear out a bunch of junk anyway, it's a great way to make sure that someone else can benefit from your stuff. (Note, however, that many of these organisations don't accept electrical items -- check before you drop them off.)
This list is by no means comprehensive and, in fact, there's virtually no limit to the ways that you can help out or do some good without having money. Don't forget, not everyone who needs help is going to an organisation. Friends, family members, coworkers, and even yourself all need help with something at some point or another. Just know what you're able to provide and, when you see a need, offer to fill it.
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