There’s been some chatter lately on the Internet about how to contribute to a charity when you’re the one on the budget. I’ve visited this topic from time to time, see my charities and donations archives.

Here is some food for thought:

Stewardship is often explained as “time, talents and treasure.”

Treasure is often thought of as cash in hand – for example, dropping some change in the Red Kettles during the Salvation Army’s Christmas campaign or writing a check to your church to honor a pledge toward operating expenses or a particular ministry.

But it can also mean gifting a worthy charity in someone’s memory or in someone’s honor. Maybe you have mentioned a favorite organization in your will. Another example is Michigan Public Radio’s daily sponsor program, where the donor gives a designated amount to public radio and then gets an announcement read on his or her behalf throughout the broadcast day.

Treasure also can be in-kind donations. When you donate clothing and household goods to any of the charitable thrift shops, when you make cookies for the bake sale, when you collect soup labels and cereal box tops for the local schools, when you purchase Christmas gifts through a fundraiser, when you donate your frequent flier or shopper card points to a charity, you are contributing treasure.

Nobody says you have to pay full price for the items you donate. It is perfectly acceptable to use a coupon on that box of cereal you put in the food pantry basket, or buy that baby outfit on a sale for the “baby shower donation drive”.

If you do not have “treasure” in the worldly sense, you probably still do have time and talents. There are volunteers who run blood drives, who knit blankets from donated yarn, who deliver meals on wheels, who visit the nursing home residents, donate space on their social networking site to promote a worthy cause, and who share their professional expertise on a variety of topics at no cost or discounted rates to those in need.

And it doesn’t cost anything to pray on behalf of favorite ministries and campaigns.

In other words, you can be living on a very tight budget and still be charitable.

More discussion and ideas:

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