Ten Ways to Make a Difference

People down on their luck or faced with life changing situations may never have the chance to rise above without the help of non-profit organizations. And the only reason non-profit organizations are in existence is because of those people who refuse to sit back and watch others suffer.

Hundreds of thousands of American businesses and individuals donate their time and money to ensure that others faced with situations or circumstances that are out of their control are cared for and receive the help they deserve. Without those people, food shelters, safe homes, youth programs and other much needed humanitarian services would not exist. Thousands of families would be forced to live on the streets, abused spouses and their children wouldn’t have a safe place to stay and little girls and boys wouldn’t know what it is like to receive a toy for Christmas.

Donating your time or money is a great way to make a difference – and it is always appreciated. If you have never donated anything before because of your own money constraints, here are ten easy ways to make an impact without breaking the checkbook:

Collect canned goods and non-perishable items.
Have a party plans? Whether you are throwing one or attending one, arrange to have a canned food drive. Call on a few friends to do all the cooking or purchase all the beverages the party will need, and instead of asking your guests to BYOB or bring a side dish, ask them to bring five non-perishable food items. After the party, deliver the food to a local food shelter.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like a lot of food – shelters that provide hot meals need all the food they can get, especially during the summer months. Most food drives are held right around the holiday season, making food donations sparse when the sun beats down.

And if you really want to help, commit to holding canned food drive parties four times a year – your guests will feel great about what they are doing, and the food shelter will win big.

Dish it out.
Don’t just donate food – help serve it. Call local food shelters and ask if they need any help in the kitchen. Many non-profits are understaffed or have few regular volunteers and could always use your help. Go there with a positive attitude and give them the help they need.

And rather than just dish out the food or cook the meal, go and talk to some of the recipients. Don’t just inquire about what happened to them – make them feel like a deserving human being and have an actual conversation. They didn’t want to be in the position they are now faced with, and your attention can really make their day.

Be a story teller.
Take a few hours a month to go and read to those who really love it – children. You can do this at children’s hospitals, local food or abuse shelters and children’s homes, just to name a few. Just give the establishment a call, see if they need your help and ask how many kids you will be reading to. Pack up your favorite books and hit the road.

When reading, be vibrant, alive and really tell the story. The kids will love your upbeat attitude, and won’t want you to leave!

To really make their day, prepare some simple snacks and hand out at the end of the reading hour – but always make sure this is okay with the non-profit facility director before handing out the goods.

Clean out the closet.
That garage sale never happened, did it? So why let all your great stuff that you no longer need just sit around. Donate it to those who really need it.

Make sure the items are in tact – a little wear is fine, but they belong in the trash if there are holes or broken pieces. Then figure out who you would like to receive them.

Instead of sending everything to a mission, see if any local shelters could use the goods. Missions or thrift stores sell your items for a profit – and the money will be used to further their non-profit services. But, many shelters could actually put your items to use – clothes and furnishings are always needed.

Become a tutor.
Educational non-profit organizations are always looking for able-bodied teachers to help support their program. Figure out your best fit (English, literacy, math, science, etc.) and commit a few hours a week to the educational non-profit of your choice.

Become a counselor.
Been through a tough time yourself? Maybe you were faced with a major health situation, lost a loved one or had a rough time financially. If so, counsel others faced with a similar situation. People need to interact with other people who have been through it before. It not only gives them hope, but allows them to get it all off their chest.

Help them make a plan and stick to it. Meet weekly or monthly to check on progress, offer suggestions and give them encouragement. They will appreciate your interest, attention and willingness to help.

Save a dollar a day.
A dollar isn’t a lot to most folks, but saving just a dollar a day each month and handing it over to your favorite non-profit could help tremendously. It could cut down their food bills, electricity and facility maintenance or pay for the care of someone. It is a great way to make a difference, and you can also deduct it from your taxes.

Be a visionary.
If your favorite charity is on the ball and have the resources they need, then ask them where they want to be in the future. Maybe they want to provide another service or branch out in some way, and you can help.

For just a few months of your time, you can help them write a plan and find the key people in your community to make it happen. Your contacts are like gold to a non-profit, and in most instances, you will find that they want to help too.

Encourage others to give.
Many people don’t just sit around talking about non-profit organizations and the services they provide. When you see fit, discuss your altruism and how it has affected your life. Educate your friends, family and co-workers about the different non-profits in your area and the help they need. Just by talking about it, you may encourage others to make a difference.

Organize a benefit.
Once a year, organize a benefit – a garage sale, an arts and crafts show, entertainment or a kid’s fair – and give all proceeds to a local charity. Benefits aren’t hard to do, and you have plenty of folks willing to help you with organizing, cutting costs and pumping up attendance. For just three weeks out of your year, you could help bring in thousands of dollars for those who need it. Not too bad for putting a thought into motion.

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