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Personal Finance > Five Tips
Making a difference
5 Tips: Charity without pain
July 28, 2004: 3:37 PM EDT
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Charitable giving is a terrific way to make a difference. But you don't have to be a billionaire philanthropist or a megabucks donor to make the world a better place.

There are lots of ways you can make a difference without spending a dime. Here are today's 5 Tips.

1. Little ways to do a lot.

Time is precious, and it's not only valuable to you; you can use it to do a world of good for someone else.

Laura Klotz, author of "Saving the World in Your Spare Time," says it's important to have a genuine interest in the cause you're volunteering for. "Pick something you love so you'll be passionate about it."

If you're unsure about how you might best use your time to help your community, there are tools to help point you in the right direction. Whether you interested in working with children, the elderly, veterans or the homeless Volunteer Match can help you find an organizations that suit your interests anywhere in the nation. Check out their Web site,

Network For Good is another Web site that can help you find volunteer opportunities in your area, visit Volunteers of America can help you find groups that may interest you in your area and also provides advice about what you can do on your own. Their Web site is

There are other little ways you can do your part. Why not call your local hospital, animal shelter, library or museum and ask if you can lend a hand? If you'd prefer to be matched with an organization or opportunity in your area, in many states, it's as simple as dialing 211. It's a toll free phone service that can connect you with volunteer service groups in your community. For more information on the service and where it's currently operating, go to

If working with children is your passion, why not volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters? It's the oldest and largest youth mentoring organization in the United States. Typically, volunteers provide their "Littles" with one-on-one time two to four times a month. The group says research has shown Little Brothers and Sisters are less likely to begin using illegal drugs, consume alcohol, skip school or engage in acts of violence. For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters, go to

And did you know you can help someone just by getting a haircut? Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces made from donated hair to financially disadvantaged children suffering from medical hair loss. The group accepts donated hair that's a minimum of 10 inches long. Donated hair should be bundled in a ponytail or braid. For more information on how to take part visit

2. Get rid of your old clunker.

Did you know you can donate an old car, truck, motorcycle, boat or RV -- even if it hasn't run in years? The American Lung Association, American Diabetes Association, CURE Childhood Cancer and a host of others will cart away your old heap for free.

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CNNfn's Gerri Willis shares five tips on how you can make a difference in someone's life without spending any money.

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Your donation is tax deductible. For more information on how to assess the value of your vehicle for tax purposes check out the Donor's Guide to Car Donation at

Some companies say they'll take care of the process for you and send the money to the charity of your choice. If you choose to use one of these services, call your charity first to make sure the company has a written agreement with them. For a big list of charities that accept cars as donations, visit This is a for-profit company not a charity, but the list is very helpful.

3. Give your old gizmos.

Preston Gralla, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Volunteering for Teens" says, "even if you don't have time or money, you can still do something."

There's no reason to just shove your old cell phone in a drawer. Your old phone could be a lifeline for someone else. The Wireless Foundation's "Call to Protect" program collects wireless phones for victims of domestic violence. The phones allow victims to call for assistance when faced with an emergency situation.

The Foundation's "Donate a Phone" program recycles used wireless phones to help the environment and raises funds for a variety of charities. Most phones are resold as economical alternatives to new ones. The rest are safely recycled in accordance with U.S. environmental regulations. For more information on donating your old phone go to

Your old computer may also be a more valuable commodity than you realize. The National Cristina Foundation has a database of pre-screened charitable organizations that need computers and other business equipment for training and educational purposes. Donors do have to pay shipping. For more information, go to Gifts In Kind America also accepts computers, office equipment and other supplies. For more information, see

World Computer Exchange is dedicated to keeping donated computers out of landfills and giving them new life connecting youth in developing countries to the Internet. Computers and other equipment are used to connect schools in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to tech-savvy sister-schools elsewhere. To learn more go to For a list of other charities that collect and properly dispose of old mobile phones and computers, go to

4. Help fill tummies.

According to America's Second Harvest, more than 52 billion pounds of food have been wasted so far this year. And more than 34 million Americans, including 13 million children are going hungry.

The mission of America's Second Harvest is to eliminate hunger in America. It distributes food and grocery products through a network of affiliates, increases public awareness about hunger and advocates policies that benefit America's hungry. Its network includes more than 200 food banks and food rescue operations. For information on how to plan a food drive or donate food, go to

You can also fight hunger by (literally) just lifting your finger. Klotz recommends visiting The Hunger Site ( Every time a visitor clicks on the button in the center of the page, a cup of food is donated. The food is paid for by site's advertisers and goes to the hunger relief efforts of Mercy Corps and America's Second Harvest. Only one click per unique user per day counts, so bookmark the Web site and go back and click once a day. For other virtual activism Web sites go to

5. Donate your duds.

Give your old suits a second chance; don't just throw them away! Dress for Success provides interview suits and career development services to low-income women so they can make a "tailored" transition into the workforce.

The group says each Dress for Success client receives one suit when she has a job interview and a second suit when she gets the job. For info on how to donate or get involved go to

Telecommunications Equipment
Wireless Phones

Your old prom dress can also get a new lease on life. The Princess Project is a 100 percent volunteer project that provides free prom dresses to San Francisco Bay Area high school girls who couldn't otherwise afford them. But there are other organizations dedicated to the same cause in other states. For a state-by-state list go to

Fancy duds aren't the only duds needed. The Pajama Program provides new pajamas and books to needy children nationwide. If you're interested in hosting a pajama drive or donating "like new" books, visit

Goodwill Industries accepts all kinds of donated clothing and household goods to sell in their 1,900 retail stores nationwide. The group says nearly 85 percent of revenues are channeled into job training and placement programs and other critical community services. For more information on how and where to donate items visit

Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News. Willis also is co-host of CNNfn's Open House, weekdays from Noon to 12:30 p.m. (ET). E-mail comments to  Top of page

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