Donating to charities when there's not much cash

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I've been hearing all sorts of reports lately that donations to charities and non-profits are way down. And, that's understandable as we all struggle to make ends meet. But, very worthwhile - groups are struggling right along with us as they continue to serve their purpose with fewer dollars to go around - just like us.

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I was at a fund-raiser a couple of weeks ago - for a very small grassroots charity - and as I walked around the silent auction tables I noticed that fewer people were bidding on items and the bid amounts were smaller than usual. That led me to think about ways that we can continue to contribute to our favorite organizations even if we don't have the cash to donate right now. Plus, with spring-cleaning right around the corner, it's the perfect time to purge through some of our stuff and share with others who need it. It's a way to donate without breaking the bank. And, boy oh boy, did I find a lot of ways.

General Ideas

Here are a couple of tips I found if you're not sure who needs what. First most charities have websites that list ways for you to donate. Of course, they love cash. But, most also have a place called a "wish list." As you look at them, depending on the organization and what they do, you see everything from towels and bedding to specific food items and even electronics. This is a great way to donate something that you don't want to a group that needs it. I looked up the Humane Society and found a lot of things on their wish list that I could part with. I found the same with a child crisis shelter. This is a great thing to do with your kids too. Have them find things on the wish list that they could donate.

Now, if you find you have a huge number of say, old towels that you'd like to see if anyone needs use your computer's search engine, whether it's Google or Ask or whatever. Just type in something like, "where to donate towels Arizona." That's how I found most of the information that I did. Some groups may come up from out-of-state and you'll have to decide if you want to pay the cost of shipping.

Also, if you're a parent of a school aged child, you may be familiar with "escrip." Schools are famous for using this partnership program that allows you to link them with donations that represent a percentage of your purchases. But, what I learned is that you can sign up other charities as well. I chose the Alzheimer's Association and AASK, Adopt a Special Kid. With "escrip" when you shop at a particular store, a percentage of every purchase is donated right back to your selected organization. It is an easy way to donate money just by buying what you would normally buy.

Related Charity Links

Like I said, it was no problem finding groups that needed items. Some are general but others are more specific. Take a look at some of these and see if you can fill a need.

I've included the website for each so that you can explore further.

Towels, Blankets, Bathroom Rugs Old and grungy are fine - they use them for the pets who are kenneled. They also have a big wish list.

Old Prom Dresses and Formal Accessories This is cool! The Give-A-Gown Foundation is collecting prom dresses and accessories to donate during a big event on March 28. They give teen girls, who otherwise wouldn't have one, an outfit for prom. This would be a great project if you have teen girls - to go through their closet.

Hygiene Products Central Arizona Shelter Services always needs personal care items. Think about all those little hotel bottles you always bring home. They can be donated to the homeless. Plus, here's another constant wish list.

Books Clear off the shelves! Donate books are drop stations throughout the Valley for the big VNSA book sale every year. The money goes to the Volunteer Nonprofit Service Association and they distribute the money to 3 worthwhile causes - Arizona Friends to Foster Children, Literacy Volunteers and Toby House.

Eyeglasses and Sunglasses These two places take old glasses, metal and plastic and refurbish them to distribute worldwide. Your old specs could land with someone who is quite literally being given the gift of better sight.

Gently Loved Stuffed Animals This was a little tough, because most places want only new ones. But this wonderful organization called Loving Hugs, accepts gently used stuffed toys. They clean them up and ship them overseas to war-torn areas, refugee camps and more. They're out of state, so you'll have to ship them.

Handmade New Knitted Blankets or Quilts Project Linus. This wonderful group has lots of women who make quilts and knitted blankets for little ones who are ill or traumatized. They are nationwide and in Arizona. So, if you have new, handmade extras contact one of the local groups. Or better yet, if you make them, here's a place right up your alley!

Gift Cards This one surprised me. But, so many of the organizations had gift cards on their wish lists. So think about those cards that you or your kids have gotten that are sitting unused. I found 4 when I looked. Most of the places use them for supplies or even to thank volunteers. This is a great donation to some smaller groups that do great work.

I found a great group in Tucson that provides mentors to youth in transition while in foster care. All volunteers are former foster kids so it's a person they can really relate to.

They could use gift cards, new school supplies and more.

Charity Charms I've received and given these. They're great. Beautiful charms made into the likeness of your favorite groups logo. I received one for the Humane Society and also PetSmart Charities. I've given one for Juvenile Diabetes. A whopping 25% of the proceeds go to the charity. They cost about $50 and if you're giving a gift it's a great way to also donate.

Cell Phones I learned that old cell phones can be reused for emergency use to call 911. They are needed and used by organizations that help the elderly living alone and also by domestic violence shelters.

Here are some sites to tell you more and how to do it. They have labels that you can print out and simply mail your phone to them.

National Center Against Domestic Violence

For Senior Citizens

Old, stinky athletic shoes If your shoes are too far gone to donate for someone else's use, consider this. It's Nike's Grind Program. They don't have to be Nike shoes but athletic shoes of all sorts. They collect them and literally grind them up to make public sports courts. There are actually a couple of courts in the Valley already made of them. Go to the website to find drop locations but one is at Tempe Public Library.

Wow! And that's just a few! Hop on your computer, clean out the closets and give back. Your house will look neater and you'll help a lot of people too,

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