You have more to offer than you might think

Many of us are drawn to making an impact in the world. It’s easy to look around and see that there are plenty of problems permeating our society.

Oftentimes, the first solution that comes to mind is donating money. While donating money is obviously a necessary part of activism, it isn’t attainable for everyone. If you’re supporting a family, living paycheck-to-paycheck, it may at times be unwise to give money to causes, even if they’re near and dear to your heart. Even if you have carved out room in your budget to give, there are so many worthy causes, and you can’t donate to them all!

There are plenty of ways to be generous when you aren’t swimming in money. Besides, while giving money is certainly a good thing to do, it isn’t where your work should end. Not having a thick wallet isn’t an excuse for not pouring time and energy into marginalized communities and causes you care about. Here are a few ways you can be generous when you don’t have tons of money to give.

Research

In order to make an effective impact, some amount of research is required. Perhaps you aren’t in a season right now where you can donate a lot of money to help end the scourge of sex trafficking, but could you spend some time reading a book on what life is like for girls being sold? (I recommend Girls Like Us!) Perhaps you don’t have cash to spare when it comes to a group doing racial reconciliation work, but reading a book like The New Jim Crow can help you understand how mass incarceration has been used to harm communities of color, which will allow you to speak intelligently about the issue now and make wise decisions in the future.

Volunteer

If you can’t give money, could you give time? Nearly every community has a plethora of volunteer needs, whether it’s serving food at a soup kitchen or sorting clothing donations at a women’s shelter. Contact a local organization involved with a cause near to your heart, and see what their needs are.

Mentor

If you’re highly educated on a particular topic, have you thought of mentoring a young woman who’s interested in the issue? Sharing your gifts of knowledge and inspiring the next generation can be just as effective as sharing your monetary gifts.

Pray and Reflect

Make time to reflect upon the purpose behind your charity and stay in touch with what inspires you about it. As a woman of faith, I like to set aside regular time to pray about a goal I have. Come up with a plan that fits for you to strategically and intentionally pray or meditate on your hopes regarding the specific topic. You can hang a photo of someone affected by that topic in your favorite spot for reflection. For instance, if you’re passionate about animal rights, a photo of an endangered animal hung in your room will remind you of the issue and keep it top of mind. 

“Do the dishes”

Shane Claiborne writes in The Irresistible Revolution that “Everybody wants a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes.” It’s a saying that highlights our desire as humans for big, flashy change, and our avoidance of doing the nitty-gritty work. I’ve had this quote hung up in my kitchen for years to remind me that doing the small things is what contributes to change. You don’t need to give thousands of dollars to a non-profit that helps fight homelessness but you could approach a homeless person and offer to buy them lunch. Maybe you need to have an awkward conversation and learn how they became homeless in the first place. Maybe instead of donating a large amount of money to a political campaign, you need to implement small changes in your life that reflect the values of that candidate.

If you can’t give the amount of money you would like to the causes of your heart, take comfort in the fact that you can still make a difference. The desire to make waves in the world is good, and you can do so even if you aren’t financially well off.