Super high-profile celebrities like Oprah and super-couple Brangelina have helped make charitable giving a must. But what if you don't have their bank accounts to give from?
The good news is that giving to charities does not have to mean opening your wallet. Just a couple hours of your time or thoughtful shopping can make a big difference for your favorite cause.
Time is money
We're not saying you have to go build houses in Haiti (though Habitat for Humanity can help you do that). Taking a little time out of your evening or weekend to pitch in is way easier than you think—and a ton of free websites are waiting to help you! VolunteerMatch and Idealist can pinpoint a time, place and opportunity that are a good match for you and your interests.
Rather run, walk, ride or even bowl for an issue? Charity Mile can help you hook up with a fun event to benefit a cause. By doing the legwork yourself, you can inspire and encourage others to back you—or join you! The star-studded Los Angeles AIDS Walk provides helpful tips for fundraising.
Tap here to help
Volunteering opportunities are only as far away as your smart phone. The Breast Cancer Site allows us to choose among different charities and with a simple click (seriously) different sponsors support the cause of your choice. Find a local volunteer opportunity through the Catalista app. The Extraordinaries app delivers micro-volunteering projects straight to your screen (help map out parks or catalogue images for an art museum) to help make your free minutes extra productive. And the Give Work app lets iPhone and iPad users help refugees earn money by answering some quick questions that help them train for data-based jobs.
If it's easier to just give a few extra dollars, make sure that they're matched (and don't forget to see if a donation is tax deductible). Many employers will match donations, and if yours doesn't, Donation Doubler will help you find other companies that will double your money! To make sure you're giving wisely, you can check a charity's track record on GuideStar or Charity Navigator.
Put your funds to work when you shop by buying from companies that donate part of their proceeds to a good cause. Whether it's makeup (Estée Lauder gives money toward breast cancer awareness and L'Oreal Paris does the same for ovarian cancer) or food (Newman's Own gives 100% of profits to charities!!), companies aren't shy about publicizing their efforts, so read the labels and check websites before buying.
Get outta town
At a loss for vacation plans? Try arranging your next trip around a do-good event or activity. Maybe you're up for a charity walk in San Fran, a construction project in Costa Rica, a benefit concert with your favorite bands in Washington, D.C. or ready to pitch in with LV's guide to helping out the Gulf coast effort. Global Volunteers has organized volunteer trips, or for one-hit events, check out Charity Happenings.
As if you needed another reason to give, either your time or your money, research shows that doing good helps you feel better. Studies show that deciding to give to charity activates reward centers in the brain. So roll up your sleeves and get giving.