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Be charitable without spending money
Donating clothing is one method of giving that does not require a financial investment. - photo by Photo Contributed

Many people equate charity to financial donations. But individuals can be charitable with their time as well.

According to Charity Navigator, a nonprofit organization that monitors charities, Americans gave more than $290 billion to charity in 2010. Thirty-five percent of all donations went to religious organizations. Much of these contributions can be attributed to people giving to their local place of worship. Donations toward educational services and programs were the second most common types of donations.

Although charitable giving through monetary donations are important, men and women can donate more than just money. Here are some ways to do just that.

• Donate hair. There are many different charities that collect hair for individuals undergoing cancer treatments that resulted in hair loss. These charities collect hair of lengths between 8 to 12 inches and turn the locks into wigs for the needy. 

• Donate your stuff. Before tossing unused items into the trash, assess these items and determine if they’re still useful. There are many places that will accept noncash donations, be it clothing, electronics, children’s toys, etc. For example, half-way homes that house abused women and children who have left dangerous situations can typically make good use of noncash donations and accept them willingly.

• Donate blood. Blood banks are often in short supply. Blood supplies typically diminish during natural disasters or storms and need donors are needed to help replenish supplies. Type O blood is the universal blood type and can be transferred to anyone. Those with Type O negative blood are really in demand because their blood donations are vital for accident victims and babies needing transfusions. Only about 7 percent of the population has Type O negative blood, according to the American Red Cross.

• Give your time. Many different organizations are understaffed and can always use the helping hands of volunteers. Check with organizations in your area to see if any need some extra help. Also check with a son or daughter’s school. Some schools can use volunteers in the library or other special curriculum classrooms where staffing has been reduced because of budget cuts.

• Offer free services. Professionals, such as accountants, attorneys, teachers, and tutors can donate their services to others, especially those who are unable to afford them in an unstable economy.

• Raise awareness. You can be the mouthpiece for an organization or special agenda. Either spread the word door-to-door, draft letters or make public speeches.

There are many benefits to making financial donations. But donating time, services or belongings are additional ways to make a difference.