1. Every Time You Turn On Your Computer
as your homepage. The online network lets you pick from a wide range of organizations (devoted to causes such as rainforest conservation and support for veterans) and click to make a free contribution daily. The more people click, the more advertisers donate.
2. When You're E-Shopping
Good news, Target enthusiasts: When you buy online (or in the store) with a Target debit or credit REDcard, you can have 1 percent of what you spend donated to a K–12 school of your choice. It may seem like small change, but to date the company has given $387 million to education programs.
3. Before You Buy Movie Tickets Online
If you need help squeezing donations into your budget, download Instead
, a free iPhone app that suggests ways you can save a few bucks to put toward a good cause. How much could you bank by skipping the movies three times and staying home to watch a rental? Enough to provide treatment to three HIV-positive teens for a month. If you donate the money online to Instead, they'll pass it along to one of their partner organizations, such as Dignitas International, which runs an HIV support club for teens in Malawi.
4. When You're Reviewing Your Company Benefits
If your employer matches charitable contributions—for example, giving a dollar for every dollar you donate to a nonprofit—you can sign up to have your donations deducted from your paycheck. In 2013, companies gave more than $760 million to charity through matching programs.
5. Accept a Call from an Unknown Number
Making a difference in someone's day, or life, can be as simple as picking up the phone. The nonprofit organization A Kind Voice
connects volunteers nationwide with individuals who just want to chat. Topics, decided by the caller, can range from books and movies to sports. If a caller is
experiencing a crisis, the organization can connect him or her to appropriate helplines immediately.
Photo: Courtesy of Goodsearch
6. Look up the Capital of Norway
...or anything, really. Each time you search the Internet using the Goodsearch
toolbar (powered by Yahoo!), a penny is donated to the cause of your choice. Since 2006, Goodsearch users have helped raise $9 million for nearly 100,000 nonprofit organizations and schools
7. Help Researchers Find Cures While You Take a Nap
Running a computer program while you sleep can assist Stanford University researchers studying Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson’s diseases as well as many cancers
discover cures. Instead of shutting down your computer, you can virtually loan your laptop's unused CPU (central processing unit)—its main engine—to science. By donating a few hours of computer time each day, you can help researchers analyze complex algorithms, process huge amounts of raw data and get steps closer to cures.
To join Stanford University's global network of helper computers, download and install the software here
8. Donate Your Professional Skills
Raise awareness and support various causes by doing what you do best—whether it's writing, creating budgets, social media, web design or applying other useful talent. Catchafire
connects professionals with charities and foundations that need help with small, specific tasks that require special skill sets.
Photo: Courtesy of Handmade Especially for You
9. Knit or Crochet a Scarf for a Woman in Need
Handmade Especially for You
is a nonprofit organization that distributes "comfort" scarves to women who have recently left abusive situations. In 2012, nearly 12,000 knit and/or crocheted scarves were delivered to 60 women's shelters throughout southern and central California. For more information about getting involved, visit handmadeespecially.org
Next: 10 insanely nice things you can say to anybody
Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Borden
10. Write a Postcard
On the Indonesian island of Java, students at a local high school are learning to read and speak English. In May, Peace Corps volunteer Matthew Borden started the project called Postcards to Java
, encouraging folks to write to his students to spark their interest in applying their language skills by providing them opportunities to read and respond in English. So far, 60 international postcards have arrived from places including Togo, West Africa; Washington, D.C. and Rochester, NY.