At a Glance: Great news! There are lots of ways to give. Take the time to determine the most effective way to donate based on your current situation.
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There’s no right or best way to put some good in the world. Sometimes you have more time than money to give, other times you have an abundance of things that could find a new home. And then there are occasions when donating money just feels right.

Fortunately, there are organizations and institutions that can use any or all of the above. The trick is knowing the most effective way to give that best suits your current situation.

Donating items

Some organizations will take clothes, toys, household goods and books all together. Consider Goodwill or the Salvation Army, where volunteers or employees sort items and prepare them to resell or to give away.

If you’re feeling extra motivated, pick out items for specific organizations. If you have used towels — an animal shelter might appreciate those. An organization that helps refugees may really need your dishes and winter coats.

In all of these situations, donate items that work and are in good condition. Otherwise the charity you’re trying to help will have to spend its own resources to throw away your garbage.

Donating time

You’ve already spring-cleaned the house and donated unwanted things. Consider doing hands-on volunteer work to share your time and talent instead. Many nonprofits get an influx of help during the holidays, but they need volunteer support all year long.

Hospitals, schools, libraries, parks, zoos and community centers could likely use assistance with office work, daycare or greeting visitors with a friendly smile. Reach out to these local organizations to determine where they could use a helping hand.

Donating money

Nonprofits thrive off of donations and your money is always welcome. Consider throwing all of your loose change in a jar for the calendar year, and then give it away to the nonprofit or cause of your choice. You won’t even miss it. Bigger donations certainly work, too.

In any case, be thoughtful with your cash donations. If you’re not sure where to give, or you want to make sure your selected organization is using the money wisely, turn to online tools for research. That way you will make informed decisions and the most impact with the dollars you share.

When it comes to helping others, there is no right or wrong way to give. However, you may find it more fulfilling to take the time to determine what works best for your lifestyle, bank account and schedule.

Charity Navigator evaluates the financial documents of thousands of organizations, assessing their financial health, accountability and transparency. You can compare nonprofits with each other and search by interest areas to find the best places for your donations. Similarly, GuideStar collects information from nonprofits’ IRS filings, providing insight into their operations, impact and reputation.

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