quick-and-easy ways to volunteer/donate
August 12, 2008 7:51 AM   Subscribe

What are some quick-and-easy ways to volunteer/donate to support causes (anything really)?

I already donate time and money to my primary causes, but there are a lot of cracks in my day when I could do something else small.

I know about click2donate, more sites like those would be welcome (do they really make much difference?). I'm willing to put in a little time up front, to sign up for cancer research studies or such. I'm also willing to collect things like soda can tabs, write letters, etc--anything I can wedge into the cracks of my day, with a possible occasional larger effort.

I'm primarily interested in social justice, health research and the environment, but in the interestests of anyone else following along, hit me with everything!
posted by sLevi to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Don't bother with the soda can tabs.

How about donating to your local blood bank?
posted by Daddy-O at 8:13 AM on August 12, 2008

Amnesty International! Their letter campaigns have a proven track record of concrete success:

posted by runincircles at 8:35 AM on August 12, 2008

Response by poster: *sigh* I was afraid of that about the soda can tabs...it looks like Ronald McDonald house gets only $427/million tabs collected...but since someone at work was doing the hard work of collecting I just handed her a pile every once in a while. There's the same problem with box tops for education--I might as well just donate a buck as collect those.

I do already give blood...I've been thinking about looking into giving plasma recently, I hear that's more greatly needed.
posted by sLevi at 8:54 AM on August 12, 2008

One small thing that we have started doing is donating fresh vegetables to the "soup kitchen" downtown. We are getting a CSA box weekly and the amount is much more than my husband and I can eat in a week, so every weekend, we bring down a big bag.

The people who work there have been really happy to receive more fresh food rather than the usual canned and boxed non-perishable donations.
posted by stefnet at 8:54 AM on August 12, 2008


From http://www.freerice.com/faq.html

For each word you get right, we donate 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

FreeRice is not sitting on a pile of rice―you are earning it 20 grains at a time. Here is how it works. When you play the game, sponsor banners appear on the bottom of your screen. The money generated by these banners is then used to buy the rice. So by playing, you generate the money that pays for the rice donated to hungry people.
posted by KAS at 9:13 AM on August 12, 2008

folding@home turns your spare computer cycles into problem-solving on protein folding. folding@home is pretty popular, but here's a bigger list of distributed computing that helps society.

Do you speak another language? Specifically Spanish, French, or Portuguese? I've been translating stuff sporadically for Grassroots International for a year or two. There's probably demand for other distance-volunteering, but I don't know. They're a little too far on the left-leaning side of social justice for me, personally, but I enjoy learning about the projects and keeping the languages un-rusty. They have a funding schedule that proposals/reports come in on, so there's not always stuff available. If you speak something else, you might try one of the micro-financing groups. IIRC Kiva was at one point looking for translators.

Also, don't forget that a lot of one-off local things come up in various sections of craigslist. It's how I found Grassroots International, actually. I'd often peruse some "etc" sections and also the jobs sections looking for stuff that piqued my interest.
posted by whatzit at 9:24 AM on August 12, 2008

*sigh* I was afraid of that about the soda can tabs...
Ah, but you're forgetting one of the key benefits of this kind of program. It's not just the money they get, it's this:

someone at work was doing the hard work of collecting I just handed her a pile every once in a while
You thought about this person and this charity every time you had a soda or a beer. Isn't that amazing? Could that have happened if they just had a partnership with their logo slapped on the can? Hell, no! Yay, PR.
posted by whatzit at 9:30 AM on August 12, 2008

You could do the boring paperwork for a charity - things like stuffing envelopes for mailings or stuffing give-away bags with fliers and whatnot is enormously helpful. I've done this both on-site at the charity, and I've taken all the materials with me and done it at home. The latter might fit your schedule better. A couple dozen here and there during the day, and soon you've stuffed several hundred envelopes, which can be a big help to a charity that doesn't really have a lot of support staff.

I donate platelets. Each donation can be as much as a 3-hour commitment, as opposed to maybe a half hour for whole blood. But you get a heated blanket and all the boring daytime TV you can stand! You can donate platelets more often than whole blood.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:33 AM on August 12, 2008

I'm not sure if you live near any of their local chapters, but signing up for One Brick events is a great way to fit some volunteering into a busy schedule. You sign up for individual events volunteering for local non-profits. This does require leaving the house, but each event typically only lasts 1 - 3 hours and you don't end up locked into a long-term commitments.

I'll also put in another vote for Amnesty International, a wonderful organization!
posted by thewrongparty at 9:57 AM on August 12, 2008

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO not that bloody folding@home again! I refer you to this.

But i'm not even warmed up. protein folding is an intrinsically bad task for distributed processing beyond a relatively small number of processors. thats why Kollman had to go the traditional "Supercomputer" route for his villin headpiece simulation. you think peter kollman couldnt have got as much distributed processing as he wanted? the man is a god. and his simulation did a bad job of folding, i.e. it wasnt that it didnt fold, it just did a poor job. this suggests not a lack of simulation time but inadequate force fields. long time simulation= more garbage.

(The writer of that comment, incidentally, is Anthony Nicholls)
posted by methylsalicylate at 10:09 AM on August 12, 2008

Of course I meant this comment. Not my own relatively short one.
posted by methylsalicylate at 10:11 AM on August 12, 2008

People on here turned me onto anysoldier.com. You wouldn't even have to spend much money. I think some just right letters, or you could ask your coworkers for their old magazines, package them up in the flat rate box, get everybody to sign a card, and then just spend the $10 to mail it.
posted by texas_blissful at 10:44 AM on August 12, 2008

errr... I mean WRITE letters *hanging head in shame*
posted by texas_blissful at 11:30 AM on August 12, 2008

I tutored two Burmese refugees in English language and culture. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences ever. We had to wait for them to get state id's before we could get library cards and the day that one of them came in the mail we HAD to go to the library. He was so excited to get that card it was amazing.

I volunteered through P.A.R.A. Refugee which is a branch of Bethany Christian Services. PARA is government funded so even as an agnostic I didn't feel uncomfortable working there. There are various other organizations that match people.

You don't need anything special either, other than to be fluent in English and have a desire to help. You don't teach grammar, you help them learn to speak conversational English so they can get by.

If you are uncomfortable with foreign language speakers, many cities also need people to help illiterate adults learn to read.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 11:31 AM on August 12, 2008

Does it have to be an organized effort or incorporated entity? How about neighborhood clean up? Regularly pick up the litter along your block, or as far as you want to go.
posted by nax at 3:20 PM on August 12, 2008

« Older Please help me track down my awesome fiery shoes!   |   Sneak up or scare them off? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.