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How to Participate in Giving Tuesday When You Have Zero Money To Donate 

Lindsay Tigar  |  November 23, 2021

You want to help. But there’s no room in the budget. Here’s how you can make a difference in some powerful — and free! — ways. 

First comes the gratitude of Thanksgiving, then we have the indulgence of Black Friday, the giving-while-still-getting vibes of Small Business Saturday, and the snag-it-while-you-still-can emotions of Cyber Monday. Last — but most importantly, not least — we have Giving Tuesday. A spending holiday nobler than all the rest, it’s our opportunity to give to national and local non-profits and communities in need. The fact that it comes just on the heels of other more self-indulgent days perhaps inspires us to donate more than we might have otherwise. 

But what happens in a year when you simply don’t have a penny to spare? Like, say, in 2021 when your finances have been hit hard by COVID, and you’re barely staying afloat? We feel you, and we’re here to remind you that you shouldn’t let the pressures to spend + donate this week influence your financial decisions — there are countless ways to impact the causes and communities that matter to you, all without spending a dime. The key is to pinpoint your unique strengths and to get creative with your mission. We rounded up five ways to make a difference this Giving Tuesday, no cash required. 

Seek Volunteer Opportunities

Your time is a commodity with incredible value. (You’ve heard that “time is money,” right??) Many organizations across the country, including those in your own backyard, are constantly looking for volunteers. While it’s too late to coordinate volunteering at a soup kitchen (or similar) on Giving Tuesday itself, there are tons of other ways to make your hours matter throughout the year. Nonprofits around the country need help with things like organizing closets, filing paperwork, and running their social media accounts. Take a moment to brainstorm what causes mean the most to you. Are you passionate about access to reproductive care for women? Animal welfare? Getting the homeless  the tools they need to succeed? Whatever makes you the most passionate, seek ways to get involved. Start with a search on Charity Navigator and GuideStar, which are the top two evaluators that grade nonprofits, and help you ensure your dollars are working the way you want them to. 

Clean Out Your Closet And Pantry 

While the spring season is usually thought of as the ‘time of year’ to do a deep clean, the truth is, it needs doing all the time. Giving Tuesday is an excellent time to challenge yourself to roll up your sleeves and dig in. You can start in your kitchen, looking for unopened canned and packaged goods that are still within their expiration dates. These are excellent items to donate to women’s shelters that always need food — especially this time of year. While you’re searching, also think about your pots, pans, and other rarely-used kitchen tools that could use a new home. Toss them into your donation box, too — they’re perfect to donate to a women’s shelter, as when the women are able to move out on their own and start fresh, they’ll need tools to make their house a home. 

Next, move on to your closets. Are there old jackets you never wear? What about scarves or warm sweaters? These are in-demand at shelters, and they’ll make someone’s holiday season much more enjoyable, particularly in colder climates. Next, sort through your holiday decorations, kid’s toys your children no longer play with or have outgrown, and even appliances like vacuums. All of these are usually accepted by local charities, and are worth exploring.

Use Your Skillset to Become a Mentor

Yes, you’re on a budget. But you may be holding on to something that’s priceless, that you can (and should!) share freely: Knowledge. The truth is, we’re all experts in something. Maybe you’re a whiz at math, maybe you have serious home improvement or DIY skills, or perhaps you’ve mastered the art of breastfeeding after much trial and error. There are people in your network and in your community who may be struggling to get a grasp on the very same skills that you’ve mastered, and your guidance could be invaluable to them. If you’re looking to help people on a more one-on-one basis, try posting your expertise on social media and asking if someone in your network knows of a person or family in need. You may be surprised to find the new connections you can make. And don’t forget that it’s possible to make a big difference closer to home, too. Reach out to your immediate contacts, and see if you can pitch in to make their day, week or month easier. Maybe a friend needs help picking up her kids after school, or your mom needs a little help tackling yard work. These small acts of kindness can add up to a significant impact on the people you love — and they don’t cost a dime. 

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. Posts may contain references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

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