There have always been people and organizations in need, but as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more Americans than ever before are facing severe financial hardship. With businesses shut down and unemployment rates soaring, the need for charitable assistance has never been greater. People are having a hard time meeting their basic needs for food, shelter, and medicine, let alone paying bills. Perhaps you are one of them.

When you’re on a tight budget yourself, it can be pretty challenging to consider giving within your community. Yet, most people genuinely want to help out—even those in financial straits themselves. The act of giving is more than just solving a problem for the recipient. Charitable donations and acts of kindness are good for the giver’s mental and emotional well-being, too.

If you’ve been looking for a way to give back but thought you couldn’t afford it, help is here. In today’s post, we’ll talk about some creative ways to give to charity even if you have no money at all. 

Giving Away Stuff

Not all giving needs to be in the form of cash. You can pass on unwanted items to many organizations who will happily distribute them to those in need. This is the best-known way to support a cause when you have no money and the one which most anyone can implement.

Before you decide you have nothing worth giving, think again. Here are a few things you might be able to donate:


There are tons of places that will take your outgrown or gently used clothing items. Some will pass them directly on to those in need, while others sell them in second-hand shops and use the proceeds to support a cause indirectly. When thinking about clothes you can donate, don’t forget about shoes, boots, jackets, and coats.


Toys aren’t really a necessity, unless you’re a kid. While most toy drives usually request new toys, some will take the gently-used playthings your children no longer use. Better yet, teach your kids the joy of giving by having them choose the items to give away.

Household Items and Furniture

Do you have too many dishes or pots and pans cluttering your kitchen cupboards? Maybe you have bins of curtains or bedding you will never use or old furniture in the basement. Many apartment dwellers often do not have the funds to outfit their new digs. You never know how happy your old set of silverware might make someone who has been reusing plastic forks for several months.


If you’ve got stuff in your cupboards you know you won’t eat, give it away. It’s a terrible waste for good food to go by simply because you keep overlooking it. Bring it to your local food pantry and let someone else be nourished by it.

Handmade Items

If you’re the imaginative and creative type, use your talents for good. Quilts and blankets, handmade mittens, face masks, crocheted dishcloths, and more are in high demand. You can also make these items and donate them to your church for the annual bazaar. If you are into the fine arts like painting or photography, consider donating one of your better pieces to a charitable auction. 

Where Can You Donate Your Unwanted Items?

The Salvation Army and Goodwill almost always accept donations of all of the above items, but they aren’t the only organizations in need. Habitat for Humanity, local fraternal organizations, and churches are also good places to check. Buy Nothing or Freecycle groups on Facebook are ideal places to give away things you no longer need to those in your community.

Giving Away “Found” Money

Many people on a tight budget find they can actually rustle up a little extra cash in some unexpected places. If you really want to give money but think you have nothing to spare, consider these clever ideas:

Spare change

copper-colored coins on in person's hands

You know those big CoinStar machines in your local grocery store? They are a great way to take a jar of spare change and turn it into a decent amount of cold, hard cash. You can either turn in the money and donate it directly to the charity of your choice or deposit it to one of CoinStar’s charitable partners like Feeding America, UNICEF, or the Red Cross.

Round-Up Your Purchases

Rounding up is becoming a more popular way of giving and one that is relatively painless to implement. It’s handy for those who want to donate consistently but lack the time and the discipline to do so. It works like this: You link your eligible debit or credit card to an app, and every time you make a purchase, it will automatically be rounded up to the nearest dollar. The extra cash goes to the organization of your choice. Alternatively, some credit card companies also allow you to donate your excess points to different charities.

Shopping Mindfully

Many businesses show their commitment to the environment and social causes by donating a portion of their profits to charitable organizations. If you are going to shop anyhow, consider making your purchase from a vendor that goes above and beyond in this way. It’s an indirect way of giving where everyone wins.

Consider Paid Online Surveys

Online survey sites offer their users the chance to earn extra cash or gift cards by sharing their opinions about different products and services. But some of them also allow participants to donate their earnings to various charities.Taking surveys for money  are a great way to make a cash contribution to a worthy cause that won’t impact your current finances.

Giving Away Time

Cash is great, but have you ever stopped to think about the amount of work it takes to run a charitable organization? Most of these groups rely on dedicated and compassionate volunteers who give something equally as valuable as money—their time. The next time you feel bad because you can’t afford to contribute, consider giving away some of your time instead.

Where and How To Volunteer

Person Holding a Stress Ball

No matter your skill level, there is almost always something you can do to help out. Serving meals at your local soup kitchen, participating in a clean-up day at a local park, or visiting the elderly at a nursing home are great places to start.

If you have a specific interest, you can probably find a volunteer opportunity that appeals to you. Here are a few places to check into:

  • Animal shelters
  • Libraries
  • Food pantries
  • Churches
  • Schools
  • Museums
  • Historical societies
  • Nursing Homes
  • Hospitals
  • Community Centers
  • Environmental organizations
  • Gardening groups

If you have professional or business skills, providing free services can immensely benefit some organizations. Most non-profits can’t afford to hire professionals like writers, web designers, bookkeepers, graphic designers, and other freelancers. By volunteering your expertise, you can help significantly. 

Create Your Own Opportunity—Organize a Fundraiser

Maybe you can’t seem to find the right fit within your favorite charity. If you’re a go-getter who’s good at coordinating events or fundraisers, consider organizing your own. Coordinate a bake sale, neighborhood yard sale, or even set up donation jars around town. No hard and fast rule says you have to go about giving one particular way. If you’re willing to donate the time and effort to run an event, you’ll probably find many others who would like to chip in as well. 

Final Word

Giving is one of the great joys in life. It takes us beyond ourselves and provides an uplifting boost to our morale even during the darkest times. Just because you’re broke doesn’t mean you can’t make a meaningful contribution to those less fortunate. By working with what you have, you can donate your unwanted foods, found money, and even your extra time where it’s needed most. You might even find it far more satisfying and personally rewarding than giving cash.