Before we get too comfortable, we need to take inventory of our charitable side. We might not have a lot to give, but what we do have, we need to offer.

[MYTH #1: I’m too broke to give…]

I’m sorry did I say finances? Nope. I didn’t. When we think about charity the first thing we should ask is not "how much" but "what kind." I agree with you, you’re broke. Me too. But, I’m not broke and overbooked to the point that I couldn’t spare a few hours here or there.

Think of it like this: Every hour you donate is an hour that doesn’t need to be paid for. Volunteering three hours each week translates to 36 hours in three months. At $7 per hour, you’ll be saving any place you volunteer about $250. Over a year, you’ll save ’em over $1000.

TV tells us how "just $1 a day can help a child to…." What do you think $1000 will do? Seriously folks, time is money to charitable organizations. Every little bit you can save them is a little bit more they can offer to others.

[MYTH #2: I can’t help dying kids in Rwanda, so I’m really no use to anyone…]

This is the biggest lie in our culture today. We hear a lot about devastating tragedies and think we’re charitable losers unless we can plug into monumental causes.

You and I will never be able to tackle enormous problems ourselves. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out Bill Gates needs to give us a hand in areas like these. But don’t rely on the Gates’ to take care of the big, or the small, stuff themselves. Every small thing you can offer is helpful to someone, I promise.

Have graphic design or web skills? Offer to do layout for a non-profit. Can you read? Tutor or help international students sharpen up their English. Are you a great writer? Hook up with an organization that needs a grant written to win funding. Know how to drive? Let your neighbor take a day off from the kiddie-carpool. Are you from another country and know the ropes of the U.S.? Help someone with Visa paperwork.

Figure out what skill sets you have to offer and then make them available to others in need. Think of your skills as barter or trade. Every task you kick down to others is one less task they’ll need to pay for.

[SOME EXAMPLES]

Single mom and daycare (eight hours weekly): Typical daycare fee, $25 weekly; Volunteer fee, $0. One-year savings: $1200. For a low-income mom making $15k yearly, this savings is nearly 10 percent of her income.

Business cards or brochure for a non-profit: Typical designer’s fee, $35 hourly; Volunteer fee, $0. Savings for 20 hours of design: $700. This is enough for any of the following: 15 application fees for student Visas, 14 hours of private therapy for clients, about six Ultrasound scans for pregnant mothers, or two E-Machine computers for tutoring or education.

Charity comes in all forms. Don’t kid yourself; you have the resources to give you just need to pinpoint what it is you’d like to contribute. Oh yeah, you’ll also have to actually go and do it. From helping family members pay for healthcare, to helping perfect strangers at a community center, something in your arsenal of talents or resources can make a difference.

Looking to plug in? Look around you first; see what you can do on your own street, in your own neighborhood. Look outward second; here are some resources to get you started:

VOLUNTEER MATCH

Hook up with communities you like, in your area.

HEIFER INTERNATIONAL

Teaches farming skills and thus self sufficiency. Heifer International provides the training, you provide the animals. Choose to donate from a variety of farm necessities-seedling trees ($60) to baby chicks ($20) to sheep and goats ($120) to the granddaddy gift of them all, the Noah’s ark ($5,000). Can’t afford a whole Llama? No sweat, Heifer lets you donate a share (or portion) toward an animal. Or, team up with your crew and make a group donation.

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY

Get hooked up in your home town and help build houses for those on tight budgets. Work with the families who’ll occupy the home to build safe, affordable housing for the working poor. All you need is time; skill, surprisingly, is not even considered … the folks at Habitat patiently re-nailed each and every crooked spike I hammered into the roof wrong; I was transferred to the painting crew…Thanks Habitat!)

WORLDVISION

Sponsors individual children in foreign countries. Want a pen-pal and to provide educational and other resources? WorldVision sponsorships cost about $45 monthly and you can hook up with a kid from the country of your choice (if you really want to be picky, that is).

CARE

Provides sustainable life training and provides resources for people to begin work. Donates water-wells, education, small business loans, etc … CARE lets you in the club for about $20 bucks monthly.

RELATED LINK:

WHY DON’T WE GIVE?

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