Sunday, July 20, 2008

Squeezed by Sluggish Economy, Many Find Charity Begins at Home -- On the Computer

(ARA) - The downturn in the economy and rising food and gas prices are taking a toll on charities and non-profit organizations.

Soup kitchens, churches, international aid organizations and schools report donations of all kinds are down as folks struggle to make their own ends meet. For the majority of Americans, giving cash to their favorite cause will be a hardship this year, and charity officials say they are seeing people in higher-income brackets needing food and supplies.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t ways you can make a difference. One simple thing you can do to support your favorite charity or non-profit organization is log onto one of several charitable search engines that will donate money for every search you conduct, such as Using Microsoft’s “Search and Give” is free and easy. Simply select the charity you’d like to support then use the site every time you need to search the Web.

Each time you type a search query into the search box, a penny will be donated to the charity you have selected. Charities you can contribute to include non-profits, local churches, schools, orphanages and foreign aid programs. Microsoft tracks your earnings and makes an annual collective donation to your selected organization.

Nina Gaw, who is both a teacher and the parent of twins who attend St. Gregory the Catholic School in Virginia Beach, Va., received an e-mail through her Hotmail account letting her know about the Search and Give fundraising program last year. “I checked it out, liked what I read and decided to give it a try,” says Gaw.

Since she was the first person at the school to learn about the site, Gaw signed up to be the school’s program coordinator, and as such took on the task of spreading the word about Search and Give to everyone at the school. “To kick off the program, I put up posters around the school, passed out fliers and sent e-mails to everyone I know,” she says.

And her effort paid off. The school raised $3,700 through the program last year. They plan to use the money to upgrade technology at the school. “We’re going to buy three or four Smart Boards this summer, items that weren’t in the budget for the 2008 – 2009 school year due to budget cuts,” she says. “Hopefully we’ll be able to purchase even more next year. Our goal is to double, or maybe even triple our earnings in ’08 – ’09.”

Log on to to learn more about the program and start earning money for your favorite charity today.

Here are some other ways you can donate to your favorite cause without spending money:

1. Volunteer Your Time.
What better way is there to connect with your community than to give a little back? By volunteering to work a few hours a week at a soup kitchen or as a tutor for underprivileged kids, you’re providing a much needed service the charity doesn’t have to pay to receive.

2. Organize or participate in a fundraising garage sale.
If you have a cause near and dear to your heart, hand out fliers and ask your neighbors to drop off items they no longer need that you can sell at a garage sale for your favorite charity. It’s likely someone in the community would be willing to pay $15 for that dinner table, or $5 for the table lamp your next door neighbor was just going to throw away. A three-day sale in the church function hall -- a place you won’t have to pay to rent -- could easily net thousands of dollars.

3. Donate gently used goods to your local Goodwill, United Way or Salvation Army shelter.
When you drop off said goods, you’re making more of an impact than you may think. Not only will proceeds from the sale of the items you drop off go towards programs these organizations run, you’re providing work for someone in need of a job.

4. Organize, host or dedicate an event.
While this tends toward a greater time commitment that may span a few months, any charitable organization can benefit immensely from fundraising or awareness events hosted in its name. If you don’t have time to put on a full-fledged event, perhaps you can ask the guests who come to your next dinner party to bring along some canned food to donate to the local food shelf.

5. Share information with the charity.
Sharing crucial information with a charity can be extremely valuable. Whether it's sending along news about events, legislation, research, technology, trends, fundraising/marketing techniques, or complementary organizations, passing information is a time- and cost-saver that any charity would be glad to have.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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