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Personal Finance > Five Tips
Giving year round
5 Tips: Make charitable giving a part of your life.
January 6, 2005: 4:46 PM EST
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist

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CNN's Gerri Willis shares five tips on how to become more charitable in everyday life.
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Americans have been giving generously to help victims of the tsunami disaster that destroyed seaside communities from Thailand to East Africa and killed 155,000 people.

Financial gifts have been so substantial that the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders USA urged Tuesday donors to stop sending money.

Having seen the pictures of the devastation left behind by the monster waves, however, you may be itching to find a way to be more charitable everyday -- not just when disaster strikes. How can you make "giving" a way of life? Here are today's five tips.

1. Volunteer your time.

Time is precious. Volunteering in your community is a great way to give of yourself. Ready to get started? First, pick a cause you feel passionately about.

Web sites that can help you match your interests to local groups include and Volunteers of America, or

2. Fight hunger.

Hunger isn't just a problem overseas. More than 34 million Americans, including 13 million children, are going hungry, according to America's Second Harvest.

The organization distributes food and grocery products through a network of 200 affiliates and increases public awareness about hunger. You can learn how to plan a food drive or donate food by going to

Another way to give is through The site's advertisers will automatically donate a cup of food to a number of organizations when you click on the button in the center of the page. Only one click per unique user per day counts, so bookmark the Web site and return often. The site will also send you a daily alarm to remind you to point and click.

3. Donate your wheels.

You can donate an old car, truck, motorcycle, boat or RV, even if it hasn't run years to charity. The American Lung Association, American Diabetes Association, CURE Childhood Cancer and a host of others will cart away your old jalopy for free.

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 list of charities that accept cars as donations, visit

4. Give your gadgets.

Your gizmos can help others. The Wireless Foundation's "Call to Protect" program collects wireless phones for victims of domestic violence, while its "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, however, must pay shipping. For more information, visit

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. Visit to learn more.

For a complete list of charities that collect and properly dispose of old mobile phones and computers, check out

5. Donate your duds.

Give your old suits a second chance instead of throwing 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

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An 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. Visit for a state-by-state list.

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  Top of page

Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News. E-mail comments to

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