Did you roll your eyes when you saw that title? It’s OK to admit it if you did.
As a child, I was routinely told charity begins at home, and therefore never really got round to doing much about ‘giving’. While my parents didn’t struggle for money, they were not rich by any means. I therefore grew up with the belief that giving to charity is something rich people do; something I’ll consider doing next year; or something I’ll do when I’m not in debt. But I’ve slowly discovered giving to charity isn’t limited to donating £2 a month to the RSPCA or PDSA or WWF or whatever advert pops ups on your TV in the next 30 minutes.
Charitable giving doesn’t have to involve parting with your cash at all.
There are hundreds of ways you can give meaningfully. Organisations are crying out for volunteers with all sorts of skills from IT, to communication, to just being an ‘adult’ at kids clubs. When you donate your time rather than the loose change in your pocket, you get to see first hand at the difference you are making.
If you are 16-25 years old, V Inspired is the best place to start:
“vinspired is the volunteering site for 16-25 year olds in England. We’re here to help you find your perfect volunteer placement, and we’ll make sure you get recognised for the impact you make on your community. How much time you give is up to you, from a few hours or the odd evening to summer jobs or full-time placements.”
If you’re outside of that age-range, or want to try something totally different:
Community First Responders work with their local NHS Ambulance Trusts to provide life-saving treatment to those in their immediate vicinity, bridging the gap between that first 999 call and the ambulance arriving. Full training and generally (dependent on the individual trust), full equipment is provided.
Police Special Constables give up their free time to police their community, but are otherwise fully-fledged, fully trained police officers who do it because they want to help people, and not because of the paycheck. It need not take over your life either: 4 hours a week is the minimum you need donate.
Volunteer firefighters do the same for the fire and rescue service in their area.
The examples above are great if you’re time rich but cash poor. But what if you’re cash poor and time poor? You may be working 2 or even 3 jobs trying to dig yourself out of debt and have absolutely no time left whatsoever, beyond the bare minimum needed to sleep.
There are still options available if you want to give something back, and one of the most rewarding for so little time is to donate blood. Each donation you give can save up to 6 lives. It takes a maximum of an hour to do every 14 weeks, and you get free juice, tea, coffee, biscuits and crisps in exchange.
There is almost no better way to spend just one hour of your life and yet help so many. I put this off and put this off for almost a decade, coming up with a variety of excuses along the way; “I’ll do it next time”, or “I don’t like needles” or one of a thousand other excuses I came up with to appease myself. In July 2009 I ran out of excuses and gave blood for the first time. It was an amazing experience, and knowing that you help directly save lives is a feeling you just cannot beat.
The National Blood Service website has more details if you want to get involved.
Want some other takes on it? Trent over at The Simple Dollar (another personal finance blog that I read regularly) has a different view – he budgets money for giving to charity. If you can afford to do it, then do it! Cash rich, time poor is the ideal excuse to give raw cash to causes you identify with. Trent is further along in his money goals than I am, and I hope one day to follow his lead.
Charity doesn’t begin at home. Only financial well-being begins at home.