By Catherine Dionne
With all of the catastrophes taking place lately, you might feel a growing sense of desire to give back to local or distant communities. Whether it’s to help during a devastating hurricane, long-lasting bushfire, or unjust political corruption, the truth of the matter is, you might not always have the financial means to give as much as you’d like. Fortunately, there are many ways you can create a positive impact, even if it’s on a shoestring budget.
Volunteer your time and skills
Anyone will tell you that a great alternative to giving money is to donate your time. But what people often forget, is that volunteering can also mean sharing specific skills. For instance, if you have a unique talent that you think would benefit a charity or nonprofit in need, reach out and offer it free of charge. This can include building their organization’s website, performing financial services, or any other strength you think would help.
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If you don’t feel comfortable offering your skills but would like to volunteer in the traditional sense, charities are almost always looking for a helping hand and, depending on where you live, there are several great websites you can use to find them. If you’re nervous about the time commitment, take pride in the notion that volunteering even once a year can create a positive impact on your community.
Donate items you no longer need
Another alternative to giving money is to donate household or pantry items you no longer need. As Marie Kondo will tell you, let go of anything that no longer brings you joy.
Start by doing a deep clean of your household items and clothing, and gather the pieces that no longer serve you. Donate the items to your local charity or thrift store, or take it a step further by searching for repurposing stores that are partnered with a charity. Stores tied to a charity will donate a percentage of their profits in what we call a “double-win” (i.e., a community member gets to purchase your goods at a fair price and the proceeds are donated to a local charity).
As for pantry items, these can be dropped off at your local food bank, provided they are unopened and in good condition. What most people don’t realize about charities is that they often work together. During times of need, your local organization might ship supplies to other food banks dealing with an unplanned catastrophe. Similarly to what we saw take place during Hurricane Irma, back in 2018, when food banks shipped pantry items to North Carolina food banks and soup kitchens.
Use your purchasing power
Purchasing everyday items may also be a great way to flex your purchasing power and empower your local neighbourhood or communities at a distance.
Buying local may financially stimulate your community and help hard-working individuals within it, especially after a devastating natural disaster takes place. According to Mercy Corps, supporting small local businesses can help speed up post-disaster recovery and create a positive ripple effect across the community.
Another alternative is to purchase items from companies with a one-for-one business model. Typically, this means that a company donates one item for every purchase. Toms and Warby Parker are popular examples, providing much-needed shoes and glasses to those in developing communities across the world. Since Toms’ debut in 2006, we’ve increasingly seen new companies emerge with the same philanthropic approach, and while it may not be an end-all solution, it’s a simple way to give back when you’re financially limited. Be sure to research the company’s initiatives before making your purchase.
Budget your donations
Finally, the last way to make your hard-earned dollars go further is by planning and budgeting appropriately. Taking time to establish how much you can afford to give and setting aside a budget after each paycheck, can prevent financially tricky situations caused by emotional or haphazard giving.
The money set aside each month can be given to pre-established charities by setting up recurring donations through a charity’s website or saved for urgent causes that have yet to happen.
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If you’re just beginning your giving journey, don’t be afraid to start small. A general rule of thumb is to follow the 1% rule. That is, only give 1% of your income, until you feel comfortable contributing more.
With all of that said, I’d like to point out that this is not an exhaustive list. There are a number of ways you can give back to your local or distant communities with limited means. The only requirement is that you have the will to do so. As we kick off 2020, let us focus on what we can accomplish with the resources we have and empower one another to be positive forces for good.
Catherine Dionne is a Canadian social entrepreneur, writer, and marketing specialist with a passion for social innovation, sustainability, and user experience. Connect with her on Twitter and Linkedin.
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