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A Few Cures for Charity Fatigue

It's better to give than to receive. But at this time of year, even the most generous donor can get exhausted with the pleas for contributions to a million worthy causes.

We give half of our charitable donations between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and charities ramp up their sales pitches around this time, knowing that the generosity of the holidays spills over from families into good causes worldwide.

If you're looking for a good cause to support, consider the charities chosen for this year's Foolanthropy drive. Two of our charities work with businesses to improve environmental practices and help preserve the planet's resources. Two work with children in impoverished nations. The last, in keeping with the mission of The Motley Fool, promotes financial literacy.

If you feel totally tapped out already, take heart. It may seem miserly to put your charitable donations on a budget, but sometimes, you just can't help it. Still, that doesn't mean you can't make a contribution to your favorite cause. You can help in other ways besides writing a check. Let's go through some ideas.

Give time
Charities count on volunteers to do everything from making phone calls and stuffing envelopes to serving on their planning and fundraising committees. Many charities struggle to find volunteers to do the mountains of work it takes to run an organization and provide its services. If there's a group you want to help, call it up and ask whether there's anything you can do. Many will let you drop in when needed, though a few might ask for a longer commitment. You may even feel better about your contribution than you would if you wrote a check.

Use a skill
Your professional skills don't need to be confined to the workplace. A charity out there may need your accounting or public-relations or management expertise. Make your skills known to a charity that you want to help. You may be the answer to their holiday wishes.

Charge it
This might not be what you'd expect to find in a column about how to give to charities without spending, but some large charities have credit card programs that donate to the cause for every purchase. If you're a responsible credit card user, this might be an idea that appeals to you. If you tend to charge more than you can pay, you'll be spending money that could be donated to a good cause on finance charges. Many of the cards have no annual fee. Like all things credit-related, read all of the fine print before signing up.

Along those lines, consider shopping for a good cause. If you have to buy Christmas cards and gifts anyway, try seeking out a retailer or producer that donates a portion of its proceeds to a charity.

Click it
Some websites allow visitors to click on a button and make a free donation, paid for by advertisers. Several websites, such as Charity Click Donation and The Hunger Site, aggregate some of these charities. Check the website of your favorite charity, and see whether you can click to donate.

Spread publicity
There's a reason charities print bumper stickers, T-shirts, address labels, notepads, and a seemingly endless parade of stuff bearing the charity's name and mission. If you really want to spread the word about a good cause, put this paraphernalia to work. When your friends ask about it, take a minute to explain the charity's good deeds. You may have just discovered a new donor.

Speak up
Finally, you can join the crowd of opinionated Fools by putting in your 2 cents. Two cents may not seem like a lot, but it adds up quickly. Consider our "My 2 Cents Campaign": For every single post on this website's myriad discussion boards in the month of December, The Motley Fool will donate $0.02 to the pot of Fools' donations for Foolanthropy, to be divided equally among the four charities not receiving the $10,000 bonus that goes to the charity garnering the most Foolish support. So just by chiming in on the discussion about everything from budgeting to stock analysis to baseball, you can add your 2 cents to the pot and help out that way.

By Mary Dalrymple (TMF LadyD)
November 29, 2006

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