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You Can Afford to Give!

How to be an active philanthropist on any budget

Surveys tell us that the vast majority of Americans believe charitable giving is important — an essential part of our value system. However, few of us are able to give as much to our favorite causes as we like. So, you may wonder: how can I support the important work local nonprofits are doing without writing a big check? Can I make an impact without breaking the bank?

Big heart, small budget? No problem!

Supporting the charities that you are most passionate about does not have to entail an enormous hit to your bank account. Today, many of the best philanthropists are embracing a new mode of giving called active philanthropy. Active philanthropists use their time, energy, talent and social network to actively contribute to a nonprofit’s goals or bottom line. With little to no money, you can make a big difference by simply getting involved and offering some sweat equity.

Here are ways to either make your money work harder or contribute without spending a dime:

  1. Volunteering is a great way to help your local nonprofits and connect with members of your community. If you don’t know where to start, Volunteer Match allows you to search for volunteer opportunities in Gwinnett County based on cause areas, a keyword search or other filters. There are loads of charities who need volunteers to keep afloat.
  2. Giving blood saves lives, and it doesn’t take much time – you can even donate on your lunch break. According to the Red Cross, about 36,000 units of red blood cells are required each day in the U.S., but less than 38 percent of Americans are eligible to donate. This is why there are often blood shortages, especially in the summer months when there are fewer blood drives.
  3. Did you know that credit card rewards programs will often let you donate to a charity with your rewards earnings right from their website? All you need to do is log in, go to the rewards management section and look for the organization that you would like to donate to. If your card company does not offer this option, you still may be able to redeem your rewards for cash back and donate those funds.
  4. Donating in-kind is another way to help out without spending a dime. Goodwill of North Georgia accepts clothing, furniture, household items and functioning electronics. Proceeds support training and employment services. There are a number of other Gwinnett County organizations that accept gently used clothing and household items, including local thrift stores, the Salvation Army and more.
  5. For do-gooders with time and energy to spend, fundraising can be a huge boon for nonprofits. Contact your favorite local charity to coordinate an event designed to meet their monetary goals. There are tons of great fundraising ideas – from bake sales to car washes – on the web. Let the creative juices flow!
  6. Do you have a milestone birthday or anniversary coming up? Ask for donations in lieu of gifts. Struggling to come up with ideas for party favors or wedding favors? Donate a small amount to your favorite charity for each guest. You can even set up a crowdfunding site to make donating easy.
  7. If you work for a large company, there’s a chance they might match any charitable donations that you choose to make as part of their corporate responsibility initiatives. To see if your workplace participates, visit your internal employee website (or intranet) and look for a section on corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship, volunteering or community affairs. You can also call human resources for information.

Whichever way you choose to contribute, make sure that the organization you are donating to is thoroughly vetted. Do some research on the organization’s track record, strategy and leadership. What are their vision and goals? What resources are currently in place to meet these goals? How are they able to grow and shift direction over time? Most importantly, how do they spend the money given to them?

A search on a charity evaluation tool, such as Charity Navigator, will give you a good idea of where the money is going. Charity Navigator also monitors how transparent and accountable the organization is. Keep in mind that while there are plenty of reputable charities out there, there are also plenty of organizations that are mismanaged or simply looking to scam the generous.

Here are a few worth causes in the Gwinnett area…