In days gone by, the accepted wisdom used to be that ‘charity began at home’. Then the internet was born, the world became smaller, and the way we thought about giving to charity changed irrevocably. Relegated to the charity shop bargain bucket were the methods of raising funds by sitting in a bath full of cold baked beans (a notable fave of the ‘90s) and rattling a collection tin in the face of unsuspecting passers-by. This brave new connected world – especially in the wake of the credit crunch – required new ways of giving to charity; and, like a philanthropic garden in bloom, innovative methods sprung forth. Here’s a selection of the best ways you might like to consider ‘giving back’ to society – the bulk of which don’t require a surfeit of cash.

modern charity

Online giving

Fittingly for a world in which our lives are becoming increasingly lived out on social media, viral campaigns are taking on an unprecedented significance in fundraising, with people across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram going bare-faced in their #NoMakeupSelfies for Cancer Research and dousing themselves in cold water for the ALS #IceBucketChallenge. For image-conscious millennials in particular these serve the dual purpose of being feel-good and high-profile.

Equally, online platforms like JustGiving and BT’s MyDonate mean that it’s now easier than ever to give money with the mere click of a button – and donors can receive recognition for their bequest by leaving a personalised message with their donation. For those who like their altruistic acts to go acknowledged, this is likely to be the method for you. And you can make giving to charity ever easier by signing up for Give As You Live – a site which automatically donates to your chosen cause every time you shop online.

Giving Your Time

For the cash-poor but time-rich among you, giving with your time could be the solution. And volunteering offers many options. It could be anything as diverse as working as a steward for Oxfam at Glastonbury festival (which, from personal experience, is no hardship– but you’re making the charity money so it definitely counts as A Charitable Act), or combating isolation amongst older people by becoming an Age UK ‘befriender’.

age uk befriender

There’s a growing trend for careerists taking sabbaticals – or even leaving their jobs permanently – to travel to far-flung parts of the world and use their specific skillsets to improve communities in need. Particularly in response to negative media coverage and general scepticism around where the money donated to charity conglomerates ends up, it’s becoming more popular to give to charity with your own time and expertise; thereby ensuring you can see the direct impact your efforts reap. Organisations like VSO are a good place to stark if you’re thinking of taking a break or a sabbatical.

sabbaticals abroad

Working for a charitable organisation

If eschewing the corporate rat race in favour of upping sticks and moving to Peru to build sustainable housing feels like one step too far, breathe a sigh of relief. Charity salvation can also be found in your place of work – and not just for those working in the third sector. For example, while HSBC and WWF may not seem like the most natural of bedfellows, the two companies have been working together since 2002 on projects seeking to secure the world’s freshwater resources.

hsbc wwf

The desire to work for an employer with strong corporate social responsibility credentials is strong, particularly among 20-somethings; a trend which is borne out by a recent study carried out by Global Tolerance which found that 62% of surveyed millennials, “only want to work for an organization that delivers social and environmental impacts”. For companies who are looking to recruit new talent, CSR schemes come with more than just societal benefits – the stats bear out the fact that a public-spirited employer is an attractive one.

ethical companies

Buying from socially responsible companies

For those looking to build ethical behaviour into their everyday life, taking a look at your purchasing habits is a decent place to start. Numerous companies offer inbuilt ‘feel-good’ incentives to their products – think fair trade, sustainably-sourced items. Toms, the shoe brand, offers a ‘one for one’ deal, pledging that, “each pair of shoes you purchase = a pair of shoes for a child in need.” The same applies for buy-one-give-one glasses – try My Glasses Club, which supports Vision Aid Overseas to provide eye care to people in developing countries. we’re also fans of Look Good Feel Better’s rather decent makeup brushes – try them and you’ll see.

toms shoes

Giving of yourself

If this brings to mind images of selling your wares at a bring-and-buy sale a la 1989, cast your mental net a little closer to home – one of the most vital ways you can support many charities is by giving of yourself in the literal (physical) sense. This could come in numerous guises – giving blood at one of various organised sessions with the National Blood Service, offering the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan some of your life-saving stem cells or bone marrow, donating your hair to charities to be made into wigs for those who’ve lost their own through illness. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that for almost every body part you can think of, there’s a corresponding way you can repurpose it for charitable means (within reason).

Sharing is Caring

Those who lament the degradation of 21st century society; the ‘me first’ attitude which is said to rebound, need only look at the prevalence of charitable giving to assuage their fears. Far from being a phenomenon in decline, acting altruistically is built into our lives to a higher level than ever before.

free hugs

The range of options open to us today is also wider than ever before, meaning that charity is demonstrably not the reserve of the super wealthy or the super worthy. There’s an abundance of research pointing to the fact that, as well as being beneficial to society as a whole, giving to others can boost self-esteem, help us de-stress and ultimately make us feel happier. When it comes to charitable giving, the verdict is in: sharing is caring.