Make 2010, The Year of Giving!

It’s up there with diet, exercise and budgeting. Even if you don’t officially declare a list of New Year’s resolutions, most of us take serious stock this time of year, in an effort to simplify our lives and enrich others. And being more organized usually tops that list. But, perhaps it is time to try a new approach. Rather than look at organization as a dismal task, it may be better to look at it as an opportunity to make a difference. Here’s how:

1. Out with the old, in with the new: Every year, there are more gadgets, toys, and odds and ends that seem to end up in our homes. And yet, while our basements burst at the seams, millions of people around the world and in our own communities struggle for even the basic necessities. When you bring one thing home this year, try to send at least one thing out the door to support a worthy cause. Bought a new suit? Donate the older one to Dress for Success (for women) or Careergear (for men) to help provide professional clothing to low-income people seeking employment. If the kids have new sports equipment, donate the old, anything from used hockey gear to jump ropes, to Sportsgift.org. The group uses your donations to create community sports programs for underprivileged children worldwide.

2. Give as you go: To make giving as natural as possible, place a few collection boxes or bags in closets and by the recycling bin. Each time you come across something you no longer need or use, throw it into one of the boxes. At least twice a year, go through the boxes filled with books, clothes, and other household items and decide what can be donated to charity (nearly all of it!). Don’t make this a one-person job. This is a wonderful time to include children in the process of giving by encouraging them to share with others who are in need, some of the things they already have. Set up a small shoe box in the kitchen pantry to collect labels from Heinz and Campbell’s products. Kids can donate these to help benefit medical and educational programs around the country (Many schools have collection posts for label donations).

3. Make some change: According to Coinstar, Inc., the average U.S. household has about ninety dollars in coins lying around. Currently gathering dust in piggy banks and junk drawers, an estimated $2.5 billion that could be put to good use without causing financial strain. Use a Giving Jar to capture some of that spare change. Giving Jars are an easy way to make donating a consistent part of your life. To make your own, take a clear jar and tape a label around it that reads, Giving Jar. Place the jar in a prominent, accessible place—on a kitchen counter, in the family room, on a table by the front door—where it can live permanently. As the jar fills, find a cause close to your heart to contribute the contents.

4. Prep the computer: Not ready to organize your entire home? No problem, start with your computer. Switch your default setting to a charitable search engine like Goodsearch.org or Ecosearch.org and each time you perform a query, you’ll raise money for a charitable cause. You can also give back by bookmarking the “click to donate” sites like Care2.com and Thehungersite.com where website sponsors’ donate to charitable causes in exchange for your daily click.

5. Budget your giving: Whether you have ten dollars or ten thousand to donate, you need to plan your giving. To do the most with the least, I recommend that you budget your charitable contributions in advance. We budget everything else—why not this? I suggest focusing on one or two charities a year—if you don’t have a lot of resources to spread around, they’ll go further if you concentrate them. Decide on an annual amount or a percentage of your household income that you’re willing to donate—you can give in one lump sum, or spread smaller contributions out through the year.

Click your Mouse to help Haiti

Care2.com’s daily action is Click to Help Haiti. If you have 30 seconds, you can make a difference.

Click to Donate websites are probably one of the most ridiculously easy ways to harness the Internet for everyday philanthropy. When you log on to certain service-oriented websites, like Care2.com, you can click on a variety of causes and make a small donation in the process (at no cost to you—this is completely free). Advertisers and other sponsors will make a charitable contribution on your behalf (usually ranging from a few pennies to 25 cents) toward whatever cause you select.

Go to http://www.care2.com/dailyaction/homepage.html to click and 100% of the donations raised go directly to Oxfam America and help provide emergency water and sanitation services to earthquake survivors in Haiti.

It couldn’t be any easier and every little bit counts! What are you waiting for? Combine your computer time today with some everyday philanthropy!