Real You: 10 ways to give to great causes from your heart

Please welcome my guest, author Jill Williamson. Jill has a wonderful take on the some of the most wonderful ways to give gifts this Christmas! Oh, and she's putting her words where her heart is - read on! Welcome Jill:

People spend more and give more in the month of December than in any other month. I love seeing how generous people are at this time of year. But there is so much need in the world. Do you ever feel like there’s just no way to give enough? And if money is tight, how can you afford to give to charities when you’re concerned with paying your bills and putting food on the table?

Fret no more! Here are ten ways to give to great causes that are close to your heart and on the other side of the world. And if you have kids or want to do these with a group of friends, that works too.

1. Clean House- Set aside a day to clean house. Go through your clothing, dishes, books, food—everything!—and find items to donate to charity. Get your kids involved by asking them to choose five to ten toys from their rooms too. It will be a great lesson in sacrifice. Ask yourself: When was the last time I wore this/used this? If it was gone, would I really miss it? Then take your donations where they can be used: the local food banks, coats for kids, a charity-owned thrift store, or a local church that ministers to the needy.

2. Clean Up- Set aside an afternoon to clean up the trash in a certain part of town. (If it’s snowy where you live, this might have to wait until spring.) But you (and your family or friends) could also volunteer to clean a community location like a park or a church. If the location has a janitor, see if they’d be willing to give the janitor a paid day off if you did his work. And if you do work out on the roads, be sure to wear bright colors or reflective vests for safety.

3. Sign Up- There are many worthy causes that people are fighting for. Sometimes no blessing is greater than giving your signature. Follow this link (http://donatelife.net/) and click the “Register Now” button to sign up to be an organ donor. You could also sign various petitions for causes. See what causes you can find to join at http://www.change.org/.

4. Click- Did you know that associate links force advertisers to pay a little something, even if you don’t make a purchase? If you have a have a friend that uses Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other store links on her blog, click through that link before you go shopping on that site, even if you don’t buy the item your friend was advertising. You could be giving her five or ten cents, or several dollars, depending on what you purchase. The same is true for organizations that use associate links.

Here is a site where you can click for worldly causes like hunger, animal rescue, veterans, autism, child health, literacy, and the rainforest. They also have products for sale that donate to these causes. Visit here to click: http://thehungersite.com.

This site works the same as The Hunger Site. Visit http://ripple.org/ to click for water, food, education, or home loans.

And how about playing games to make donations? Free Rice is a lot of fun (http://freerice.com). On this site, you guess the correct definition of words, and each correct answer shows the amount of rice you’ve donated just by playing. I admit, I got hooked and wanted to keep playing!

At http://www.clickforyourcharity.org/ you simply choose which commercial to watch and that company will pay for seven days of clean water. Easy peasy.

If you find a clickable page you love, make it your homepage so you’ll always remember to click each day.

5. Random Acts of Kindness- William James said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Some simple ways you can show appreciation are:

-Smile. This is the fastest way to show others you like them. -Give a compliment. Saying something nice is an easy way to make someone’s day. -Ask a question. And don’t stop at “How are you?” Questions are a simple way to start a conversation. And people feel good when you’re interested in their life. -Listen. Everyone likes to be heard, and listening lets a person know you care. -Offer to help. If you see someone struggling, jump in and lend a hand! Get the door for a stranger. Give up your seat on the bus. Slow down and let a pedestrian pass—even if they’re jaywalking! And don’t honk at them.

Check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation for more ideas. http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/

6. Volunteer- Charities always need volunteers--sometimes more so during the holidays. See what organizations in your town could use a helping hand. Some ideas are: soup kitchens, churches, Habitat for Humanity, homeless shelters, lunch buddy programs, your local schools, retirement homes… You could even go Christmas caroling!

7. Pocket Change- Every time you see a bell ringer outside a store, empty your pocket change. Every little bit helps. And ask the bell ringer a question or two, as well. It’s hard work volunteering to stand on your feet all day while people avoid making eye contact with you. Make their day a little brighter by making a donation of pocket change and saying something kind.

8. Hang Out- There are tons of kids, teens, and adults performing this time of year, whether it’s Christmas programs or sporting events. Support someone by attending their event. And be sure to speak to them while you’re there and give them a compliment to show them how much you care. You could also go visit someone who’s in the hospital or a retirement home, take them a treat or a book or movie. Or make plans to have coffee or a meal with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. Make it a point to bless them with your conversation.

9. Recycle- Do you recycle your soda cans? If so, cash them in and give the money to the charity of your choice, or look for a place to donate them. Our town has several donation boxes for school teams or youth groups.

10. Buy a book (Jill’s shameless plug)- If you like to read, I recently published an enovella (book length: 120 pages) in which 100% of the proceeds go toward the adoption of a little girl from Eastern Europe. My friends need to raise over $40,000 to bring their daughter home, and they have a long way to go.

Sydney-soon to be-Haydon

This is a fun story about a teen guy who has joined a Christian spy organization. I wrote it for teens, but adults enjoy it too. It follows the first book in the series, but you can enjoy it without having read book one. Check it out:

Chokepoint: Mini-Mission 1.5

Ever since I returned from Moscow, life is a full court press. Mission League field agents are everywhere. All the time. Watching. Waiting for me to fulfill a sixty-year-old prophecy. When some baddies try to guy-nap me, the field agents threaten to move me and Grandma Alice to some random hick town, to give us new fake identities until the prophecy is fulfilled.

Not going to happen.

I've got one chance to stay in Pilot Point. I have to prove to the agents that I can stay safe. Have to make this work. For basketball. For Kip. For Beth.

So, bring it, baddies. It’s game on.

100% OF THE PROCEEDS FROM THIS ENOVELLA GO TOWARD THE ADOPTION OF LITTLE SYNDEY FROM EASTERN EUROPE. PLEASE, HELP BRING SYDNEY HOME.

How about you? Any other ideas for ways to give that don’t require donating money or buying a gift and wrapping it? Have you tried any of the above ideas? Share in the comment section.