Money isn’t the only thing charities require: from learning to sign to giving blood, you can still make a difference
People are still giving money to charity – a survey by Foresters shows 90% donated cash in 2011 – but times are tough, and increasing numbers of people are preferring to find other ways to help others.
Foresters found that 57% of those questioned like to donate old items to their local charity shop, while 43% prefer to volunteer their time. But if you have already ransacked your home for goods to donate, you may find inspiration in this list of ways you can support other people.
1. Give blood
Most people between the age of 17 and 65 can give blood, with men able to donate every three months and women every four. The most time-consuming part is finding your local donor centre and setting up an appointment; actually pumping out a pint of the red stuff can take as little as 10 minutes.
If you are prepared to commit more time and have good veins you could donate your platelets, which are required by patients having chemotherapy or organ transplants, and by those who suffer blood disorders or life-threatening bleeds during an operation. Your blood is filtered through a cell separator machine to remove the platelets and then returned to your body. This takes about 90 minutes and you can donate up to 15 times a year.
2. Sign up to the British Bone Marrow Registry
To join the British Bone Marrow register you need to be between 18 and 49 years old and already be a blood donor. Ask to have your blood checked for tissue type the next time you go to give blood – patients and donors are matched by comparing white blood cells for tissue type. Donations may be given to sufferers of leukaemia, aplastic anaemia and other diseases of the immune system.
If you are a match there are two ways to donate. The easiest involves having an injection for four consecutive days to boost the number of stem cells in your blood, which are then filtered out by a cell separator machine. The second way, donating bone marrow itself from your hips, is done using a needle and syringe while you are under general anaesthetic. This involves staying in hospital for two days and a recovery period of five days at home.
Alternatively, you can contact charity Anthony Nolan and register by providing a sample in the free spit kit it sends you. It is particularly keen on recruiting young men aged 18-30, as they are most likely to be chosen as donors yet account for just 12% of the register.
3. Register as an organ donor
No one needs their organs when they’re dead, yet only 29% of us have joined the register. Carry an organ donor card in your wallet and make sure your nearest and dearest know about your intentions, and which bits you are happy to give up.
4. Raise puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind
Each puppy lives with a volunteer from six weeks of age until it is 12- to 14-months-old. The aim is to produce a well-behaved, friendly and responsive dog ready for training. The volunteer teaches him basic obedience – sit, stay, come, and walking on a lead – and gets the puppy accustomed to different environments such as town centres, country lanes and public transport. Basic equipment, vets bills and food costs are covered by the charity, with the hardest part undoubtedly handing back the puppy for specialist training.
Several mutual organisations donate money to charity if you, as a member, take part in their annual general meeting. NFU Mutual, for example, is donating 50p to Make-A-Wish Foundation UK for each proxy form completed online, and 25p for each proxy form returned by post, up to a maximum of £30,000. In 2011, members’ votes resulted in a donation of £26,000, at no cost to themselves. So if you belong to a building society, friendly society or mutual insurer don’t just bin the AGM pack.
6. Record books for the blind and visually impaired
This is one for professional actors, broadcasters and others who have been trained in voice work. The audio book charity Calibre uses more than 80 volunteer readers to record books that are not available commercially. The recording is done in your own home, but Calibre will provide all the necessary equipment and training.
7. Help an older person with their gardening
Mowing the lawn, weeding and pruning can be impossible for someone who has balance or mobility problems, so don your wellies and help them out. At the same time as tidying their garden you will be providing company for the person you are helping. Contact your local Age UK (0800 169 6565) partner to discuss the options.
8. Learn to lip read or to communicate in British Sign Language
The charity Action on Hearing Loss has a range of leaflets and factsheets to download for free. These give the rudiments: Sign Here (Pdf), for example, explains how to sign a few useful words and the finger alphabet.
The charity has drop-in centres and holds events for the 10 million people in the UK who are deaf or have a hearing loss, and a spokesman says it is an advantage for volunteers to lip read or sign. It could also help you assess whether you have an aptitude and want to go for further paid-for training through the charity.
9. Donate your not-so-old PC or Mac
Computers for Charities has recycled more than 250,000 computer systems and distributed them to 105 countries, but legislation requires that to qualify for recycling the equipment must be less than five years old and in full working order. The charity protects donors from potential data fraud by removing the hard drives. In terms of PCs it is looking for Pentium IV or equivalent servers, desktops, towers and laptops, while the Mac minimum is MacG5, Imac or Powerbook. For further information email email@example.com or call 01323 840641.
10. Eat curry and save tigers
OK, this involves spending money, but if you are going out for a curry you might as well be helping one of the world’s rarest and most beautiful species. During Save the Bengal Tiger week (14-17 May) more than 500 Indian restaurants around the country will serve a three-course meal for £20, of which 25% will go towards protecting the estimated 500 tigers believed to still survive in the Sundabans, a wild area of mangroves on the border of India and Bangladesh.