We Americans are a generous lot. Even in the "worst economic climate since the Great Depression," charitable giving exceeded $300 billion in 2008, according to the Giving USA Foundation. However, with unemployment at 10% and families only slowly recovering from the recession, overall giving is down in 2009. According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), more than half of all charities have experienced a downturn in financial contributions this year, compared to 2008. If you don't have spare cash to give your favorite nonprofit this holiday season, here are a few ways you could still support their work. (There are several things to consider when it comes to this type of charitable giving. Make sure you're well informed by reading Gifting Your Retirement Assets To Charity.)

  • Click
    Supporting your favorite charity can be as easy as the click of a button – a mouse or touchpad button, that is. Web-savvy charities have corporate sponsors that will make donations when users interact with their websites. Thanks the advancements in usability of websites, funders can now donate, apply to volunteer and support charities from the comfort of their own homes!
  • Vote
    Charities are getting creative with social media. Consider Chase Community Giving, the foundation of Chase Financial Services. Chase Community Giving is running a campaign through Facebook, in which individuals can choose which charities will receive a portion of the Foundation's $5 million giveaway. If you have a Facebook account, you can become a "fan" of Chase Community Giving and vote for your favorite charity to receive funds. Look for other online opportunities to vote for your favorite charity to receive funds.
  • Give Your Time
    Contact your favorite nonprofit to find out what volunteer needs they have, and work with your spouse or family to determine how you could provide much-needed unpaid assistance on a regular or periodic basis. If you have a particular skill (bookkeeping, graphic design, carpentry), mention that when you call or email.
  • Spread the Word
    While you're jotting off holiday cards, why not mention an organization dear to your heart and encourage donations? Use social media tools like Facebook or Twitter to alert your friends and followers about the nonprofit's work. If you have a personal blog, write periodic updates on the organization's work, provide links to its website, and offer readers the opportunity to download a badge they can post on their blog. Consider setting up an online gift registry or wish list through retail stores with items your favorite charity needs; invite friends, family members, co-workers and blog readers to purchase a gift off the list that can be directly mailed to the organization – all at no cost to you!
  • Give What You Already Have
    Many nonprofits are in regular need of in-kind donations to support the populations they serve. For example, food banks need nonperishable food items; animal shelters often need pet toys and cleaning supplies. Before you begin bagging up supplies, contact the charity you would like to support to find out what they truly need before you burden them. Multiply your efforts to do exponentially more good by letting friends, colleagues and neighbors know that you would be willing to collect items they would like to donate, as well.
  • Shop Smart
    If you don't have money to donate, you can still give charitably if you shop smart. By shopping on sites like Goodshop.com, you can select a charity or nonprofit organization to receive a percentage of your online purchase.
  • Make Future Provisions
    Plan ahead and ensure that your favorite nonprofit receives a portion of your estate after your death. There are numerous vehicles you can use to donate to your favorite charity in the future. For example you could:
    • Make a written provision in your will that a sum of money, financial asset (stocks or bonds) or real property (car, parcel of land) be given to your selected charity.
    • Establish a charitable remainder trust (CRT), through which you can invest assets tax-free both for yourself and a charity of your choice. The CRT – either an annuity or a unitrust – will provide you with income for a set amount of time, and the assets will be assigned to your selected nonprofit afterward.
    • Set up a charitable lead trust, which allows you to have either a set dollar amount or fixed percentage of the trust's invested assets assigned to your selected charity; after your death, your heirs will receive the asset, possibly free from estate taxes

Conclusion
Take some time this holiday season to figure out how you and your family could use one of these creative ways to benefit charities, without spending a dime. (Generosity may be its own reward, but some charitable giving also provides personal tax benefits. Find out more in Deducting Your Donations.)

Related Articles
  1. Professionals

    10 Must-Follow Broker-Dealers on Social Media

    Stay in the financial markets 'know' by following these influential independent broker-dealers on social media.
  2. Investing

    Dick Costolo Biography

    Dick Costolo is a very polarizing man – half the world credits him with saving Twitter Inc. (TWTR) from its own popularity and making initial investors rich while the other half blames him for ...
  3. Professionals

    Top Referral Tips for Financial Advisors

    A referral from a friend, colleague or industry expert can go a long way in getting more prospective clients to give you a call. Be proactive about it.
  4. Active Trading Fundamentals

    Is the Twitter Business Model Broken?

    Understand what Twitter is and how it seeks to increase its user base as well as its quarterly revenue. Learn whether its business model is broken.
  5. Economics

    Explaining Endowment Funds

    An endowment fund is money set aside to earn revenue to fund some type of charitable activity.
  6. Taxes

    5 Warning Signs a Charity Is a Scam

    Giving to charities and helping those in need is admirable. Here's how to ensure your good intentions and donations aren't siphoned off by scammers.
  7. Investing Basics

    Will Jack Dorsey Save Twitter?

    Product visionary and co-founder Jack Dorsey may be the catalyst to turn Twitter's fortunes around if he is retained as permanent CEO.
  8. Personal Finance

    Top Tips for Helping Clients Sustain Wealth

    High-net-worth individuals face a number of potential challenges when passing wealth down, but it is possible to build generational wealth.
  9. Investing

    How Advisors Can Get the Most Out of Social Media

    It's imperative for financial advisors to take advantage of social media tools, and they should start with the most effective, fastest-growing options.
  10. Professionals

    How Financial Advisors Can Tweet Like Pros

    A quick guide to how advisors can tweet like the elite.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Endowment

    A financial asset donation made to a non-profit group or institution ...
  2. Venture Capitalist

    An investor who either provides capital to startup ventures or ...
  3. Directors And Officers Liability ...

    Directors and officers liability insurance covers you if you're ...
  4. National Motor Freight Traffic ...

    A nonprofit organization representing interstate, intrastate, ...
  5. Guarantee Company

    A form of corporation designed to protect members from liability, ...
  6. Economist Intelligence Unit - EIU

    An organization that provides forecasting and advisory services ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. How does revenue recognition differ between profit and non-profit companies?

    Under the generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, for-profit companies recognize revenue as it is earned through ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What kind of philanthropy did Nathan Rothschild do?

    Nathan Rothschild contributed to many areas of philanthropy in the Jewish community. His family later expanded these charitable ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What's the largest charitable donation Warren Buffett ever made?

    The most significant charitable donation Warren Buffett ever made is the $37 billion pledge to the Bill and Melinda Gates ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Who are Facebook's (FB) main competitors?

    Among the hundreds of online social media sites on the Internet, sites that compete directly with Facebook (FB) include Instagram, ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How does Twitter (TWTR) make money?

    Twitter (TWTR) earns 85% or more of its revenue from advertising. In the second quarter of 2014, Twitter posted an advertising ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Can I donate stock to charity?

    Giving stock, instead of cash, as a donation can greatly benefit both parties. You will find that most charities, hospitals, ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!