How to Be a Micro-Philanthropist
December is a big month for charitable donations. Many nonprofit organizations receive the lion's share of their annual contributions between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, according to philanthropy expert Charity Navigator.
Though the economy is still wobbly, many people feel it's important to give. More than seven out of 10 say they expect to donate the same or more in 2011 as they did last year, according to a recent American Red Cross poll.
You don't have to give a lot to make a difference. Here are some nonprofits that welcome donations of as little as $5:
Next time you buy a latte, make a $5 donation to this new job-creation program, which makes loans to small businesses and spurs hiring in struggling communities.
This Southern California-based micro-charity collects $5 pledges to fund $5,000 grants for programs that help girls in need. Online donors get to vote on where the money goes.
Buy gift cards online at Pottery Barn, HSN or other participating retailers, and they'll donate $5 per purchase to this longtime children's cancer research program.
Pay as little as $10 for a share in a goat (shown above), sheep or three rabbits, and this global organization will make a donation in your name (or someone else's) to people in developing countries. Pay more and give a "gift basket" with chickens and rabbits (fast-multiplying livestock) to a farmer.
5. Half the Sky
If you donate $10 or more to this charity benefiting Chinese orphans, founder Jenny Bowen will match it with funds from the $100,000 grant she received earlier this fall as a 2011 Purpose Prize winner.
6. USO Wishbook
Send a $15 care package to a soldier stationed overseas using the military support organization's alternative giving catalog. Or spend $25 to fund a phone call home or buy board games for a troop game night at a USO location.
A $15 contribution feeds a family for a week at this Columbia, S.C., food bank, which serves a 20-county area and distributes 22.3 million pounds of food annually. Use the online locator at Feeding America to find a food bank in your area.
A $20 contribution feeds an abandoned dog for three weeks, and $35 pays for vaccinations for 10 homeless cats and dogs, according to the national agency, which helped place 63,000 stray pets into new homes this year.
9. 211 Info
The 7-year-old, multi-agency program welcomes donations of as little as $25 to pay for food, housing, counseling and other services for needy residents of 13 rural counties in Oregon and southwest Washington. Nationwide, 28 states have established 211 programs.
Giving your time is free and priceless. Many organizations need helpers now and throughout the year. Find organizations close to you through VolunteerMatch, which pairs volunteers with 79,000 nonprofits through the United States. Lending a hand at a charity of your choice is "one of the fastest ways to understand how an organization is run," Sarah Libbey, president of nonprofit organization Fidelity Charitable, tells Reuters.
Wise-Giving Tip: Check out a charity before making a donation by visiting Charity Navigator or GuideStar. Both sites maintain searchable databases of millions of nonprofit organizations and share advice on how to be smart and safe when giving.
Read more: Craig Newmark on How to Find Good Charities
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