Every now and then, it good to stop for a bit and count our blessings. And look for ways to share with the less fortunate people around the world. Being students or fresh grads on the verge of starting out, it is hard to donate a pile of money for charity. In this edition, I will try to list out some of the other ways we can give back. Please feel free to add any other ideas I may have missed out. Note that while the ideas here are written with the focus of students and fresh grads, they could easily be adapted to fit other circumstances and charity drives.
- Money is not all that can be given away. Time, can sometimes be more precious. As students, you will have more time on your hands now than you will ever have again in life. While I am all out for making the most of it and having as much fun as possible, consider donating a few hours to a cause. Several opportunities are available right around the campus – eg., helpline, rides for the needy etc. You can also look up non-campus opportunities at this website, or look on google for other opportunities.
- Penny Drives. If you are an international student, this is a neat little way to raise money for a cause in your home country. Everybody has a jar, cup or a pile of pennies lying around. Request people to donate their pennies for a cause. State clearly what cause it is. Advertise all over campus clearly showing how a few pennies, when converted to the currency of the home country, can make a huge difference. While it is hard to raise money on campus for charity, you would be surprised at how much you might be able to collect through a penny drive!
- Craft show and sale. Urge international students to bring a few handicrafts earmarked for charity on their trips to the home country. Beautiful, handy gifts can be purchased very inexpensively in foreign countries, by locals who know where to get them from. They usually will fetch a comparatively large price when sold in the US. Similarly, you may have friends here who know folks that are interested in quilting, jewellery making etc and may be willing to donate or sell items for a lower price for charity. Hold a sale and donate the proceeds to charity.
- Food Drives. Several times during the year the church in our neighborhood does a food drive to collect canned food and distribute it to the needy. Look for such food drives in your neighborhood and help spread the word or help with the collection process. If you cannot find an existing food drive, check with your church to see if you can get one started.
- Yard Sale. Look on the notice boards and mailing lists for students trying to sell stuff for cheap. Look for sponsors to buy these items for a charity yard sale. Sometimes, when you say you are buying it for charity, some of the sellers may agree to reduce the price or give away the items. You can also post out notices for students to donate their stuff to your cause when they get a job and move on. You might want to co-ordinate this with your neighborhood church or some such organization, for giving credibility to the cause and also since you will need space to store the stuff and hold the yard sale.
For fresh grads: In addition to the above you could look at some these options below –
- Paycheck Deductions. Many companies offer paycheck deductions for a charitable cause. Look if the place you work for offers this. If the cause promoted by your company aligns with your interests, you can indicate a fixed amount to be deducted from your paycheck. You will not notice if your take-home salary is less by $10 or $25, but to someone, somewhere, it will make a world of difference!
- Participate in charity walks. Every big city sponsors walks and marathons for a cause – eg., cancer walk or diabetes walk etc. The way this works, you will have to pay the entry fee to participate. In return you will get a participation package, which will usually be a T-shirt with your number token and a few trinkets. The remainder of your entry fee will be donated for the research of the cure. Some of these will also allow you to create a personalized website, where you can request your friends and family to donate on your behalf. Finally, check if your work place will match your donation.
- Used car donation. When you plan to buy a new car, if your old car is in good running condition, why not donate it instead of trading it in for a few hundred dollars? Some organizations even accept cars that are NOT in running condition and will have the tow truck come and pick it up from the place where your trusty companion through years of college finally gave way to age, without any additional charges to you.
I am sure there are a lot more opportunities that I haven’t thought of. Feel free to share your ideas.
- Update 12/28/2006: Five Cent Nickel today has a post about American Red Cross, which made me think of one more. Organize and/or participate in blood drives. This may not be for everyone, but those who are healthy enough, think about it - you really can save lives!