How to maximize your generosity

Instead of blowing your bargain savings on another shopping trip, think of people who have no money to buy even the most basic of necessities. Donating your money to fellow human beings is the best use for your money. Not only do you feel good about it, it really does help people get back on their feet.

Getting the bang for your buck is great for your stuff, but it is just as important when it comes to charity. One way to maximize your donation is to look for groups that are willing to match. You'll be surprised by how far it'll go. For example, I was trying to decide how much to give and which charity to donate to when one of my professors gave us a challenge: he wanted us to each bring in $2 for a goal of raising $250 total. In turn, he would match it and then bring it to a place that was willing to match as well. The response turned out to be overwhelming: I could only afford to give a humble $5 (which eventually turns into $20, if you do the math), and some others gave $30 and even $125. The class (of around 100 people) raised a whopping $1,152! The prof matched it and brought it to the place that would match and donate all the money to the Red Cross. At first, the person there thought the prof collected it from his colleagues, but she was stunned to learn that it all came from us debt-ridden students.

If you find old clothes squeezing your new bargain finds out of your closet, or see old appliances lying around, consider cleaning them out. Many schools and community groups are accepting donations of clothing or practically anything else. One of my classmates has family in New Orleans, and many of her relatives have absolutely nothing, so she organized a drive that takes anything and everything. Things like extra school supplies or desk lamps will go a long way for many people. Even if the drives in your community have ended, Thanksgiving is coming up, so keep that in mind.

And if time is money, you can certainly give that as well. If you're in a major metro area, chances are evacuees are in your area. Your local Red Cross might have shelters serving them, and I'm sure they'll appreciate help serving food. If you have special professional skills (or training for them), I know that various law schools and medical schools are organizing free clinics. For example, Public Counsel, one of the country's biggest pro bono firms, is training lawyers and law students to help fill out forms for public assistance and provide other legal services to those who need them.

Last but not least, please don't limit your generosity to times of crisis. Situations like this had been years in the making, and it's important for us to help resolve social issues before they snowball into a catastrophe. Hopefully the good feeling you get from opening your hearts now will inspire you to continue doing good. I know it sounds like a cliche, but believe me, it really does make a difference in the long run.

No comments: