If you're interested in making a donation, you can feel great about writing a check. But if you have more time and want to try something different, there are lots of ways to make giving more fun—and to get your family, friends, and neighbors in on the good times as well! Here are seven simple ways to "pay your rent for living" while also providing you and your loved ones with a good time. Simple Gifts: Five Fun Ways to "Pay Your Rent"

1. Have a Party!

Who doesn't enjoy spending time with family and friends—and this way you can do it in the name of a good cause. For example, you could choose a local charity and send an Evite to your family and friends to come over for a fun get- together complete with appetizers and cocktails or a playdate for the kids. Include information about the charity on the Evite and ask each guest to bring a prewritten check in a sealed envelope. Collect the checks as guests arrive and proceed with your event. This is a cool way to raise money without your guests feeling any pressure as well as a wonderful way to enjoy your friends' company! Or perhaps instead of asking guests to bring a check, ask them to bring designated items such as winter coats, shoes, professional work clothes, baby items, canned goods, and the like. Or you may consider asking guests to bring an assortment of travel- size toiletry items, such as toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, soap, razors, and so on. Have baskets, cellophane paper, ribbon, and scissors available for your guests so that they can create care packages while they enjoy your appetizers and cocktails. Then donate the items to such venues as a local homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter, food bank, welfare- to- work organization, or teen support center, or send them to our soldiers overseas. Remember that people who are going through a life transition often don't have even the very basics, including diapers for their children, coats, shoes, and blankets. Your small gift can mean a great deal to someone in need.

2. Blessed Blooms

Whenever you host a special event, consider donating the floral arrangements from your special day to a local hospital. Just contact the community relations office of your local hospital and they'll help arrange for transportation. You can also ask your florist to transport the flowers—often, they'll say yes. The flowers are usually arranged in public areas where families and patients gather, but sometimes they're delivered to actual patient rooms. What a great way to share your special day with others!

 3. Bowling for Dollars

Invite your friends and family to go bowling. Ask each person to bring along a check of any amount along with an idea for a charity to support. You bring pens, envelopes, and a basket to the bowling alley. Then whoever wins the game will have the honor of choosing the charity to which the basketful of checks will be given. Have the guests make out their own checks and seal them into individual envelopes. When you get home, slip all the little envelopes inside one large manila envelope and drop it in the mail.

4. Spring- Cleaning Block Party

Send out flyers inviting your neighbors to join you for a spring cleaning block party. Together you can decide on a date for the event and choose a charity. Then make up more flyers and distribute them all over town. You might even convince a local newspaper to write a profile of your charitable neighborhood! This idea not only raises money and brings you closer to your neighbors but also helps you get rid of the items in your household that you no longer need.

5. Knit and Crochet for Good

Do you belong to a knitting or crochet circle? Why not designate a month where you knit or crochet for good? You might make hats and booties and donate them to a homeless shelter, domestic violence organization, or teen- parenting center. Or you could make shawls and blankets for the elderly. Use your creativity and enjoy the company of your fellow crafters while you make beautiful items for those in need.

Excerpted from If It Takes a Village, Build One: How I Found Meaning Through a Life of Service and 100+ Ways You Can Too by Malaak Compton-Rock, foreword by Marian Wright Edelman. Copyright © 2010 by Broadway Books. Reprinted by permission of Broadway Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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