No matter what your level of time, treasure, and talent, there is a way for you to be involved and make a positive difference. We’ve made helpful suggestions  ranging from infrequent to ongoing.  For a few examples of people making a difference, read the stories of: Ursula Morgenstern – backpack giveaway for local kids in need; John F. Mello, luthier – impacting hunger, through music; and Susan McKinnon, M.D. – restoring hope, through her special skill.

Select your commitment level:

You will find things you can do at any point with little or no planning… just incorporating these activities into your everyday activities can make a world of difference.

Stand Up For Safety

Help end violence in your neighborhood with a neighborhood watch program. Cost = $0.

Speak Up

Don’t be shy about talking about what you are doing. Many people would like to be involved and don’t have the time to choose which cause is best. Tell them why you care about the causes you do. And create opportunities for their involvement with you. Cost = $0.

Stand Up For Education

Encourage your children and the children around you on whom you have an influence to stay in school. Encourage parents to give kids the message “it’s ok to achieve beyond me.” Visit the National Dropout Prevention Center’s website (www.dropoutprevention.org) for more tips. Cost = $0.

Stand Up For Volunteering

Educate your friends through generosity. Lend or give them a book or film on poverty (may we suggest our book, Tracks of Hope or our more sombre film The Faces of Poverty). Cost = $0.

Look, Really Look

Take the time to really see what’s going on: domestic poverty isn’t very far away from where you live. What would happen if you lent an ear to someone who is going through hard times, and saw what you could do to help? Cost = $0 – ?

Invest Some Of Your Portfolio

Look for organizations supplying microfinance loans that empower the poor. Cost = $+++profit (not cost).

Support Your Favorite Charity With A Credit Card Gift

Giving regularly is “green;” it reduces the number of paper reminders to renew your giving. Cost = $0.

Here is a list of ripples you can make that take as little as a few minutes up to an hour of your time.

Write

Create an online blog, or join in to an existing blog.  For a few years, we had stories on a collaborative fiction story-writing blog, called ficlets. These are now archived at ficly.com.  There are poetry blogs and creative outlets of all sorts.  Let your imagination run free. Cost = $0.

If You Have  A Set Number Of Hours Per Week

You could… Doctors: consider volunteering at a free clinic or tattoo removal service, Professionals: teach a youth your skill, Become a mentor: help “agedout” foster care teens to become productive adults, Volunteer to work at a soup kitchen, job bank or shelter, Become a big brother or big sister, or guide a youth group, Teach someone to read, opening up a world of possibilities for them, forever, see our links page to get started today. Cost = $0.

Spread The Word

If you have a corporate website you can empower another nonprofit by adding their link to your website, for example this code will produce a nice button for the Second Harvest Food Bank ‘shareyourlunch’ campaign:

<a href=”http://www.shareyourlunch.net/”><img src=”http://www.shareyourlunch.net/img/webLink.gif” alt=”Click Here to Share Your Lunch!” height=”80″ width=”200″ border=”0″ /></a>

Make Your Voice Heard

Bring up domestic poverty or mental health issues in conversation at social occasions. Cost = $0.

Speak Out

Write a letter to your representative to help change the policies that allow the U.S. to have an indecently high child poverty rate. At a time when more Americans need a college degree, it’s becoming harder to get a good education. Support K-12 education and college access bills such as Pell Grants. Support the One Laptop Per Child initiative to get powerful learning tools into children’s hands. Do not vote for candidates who fail to discuss poverty policy plans. Be an informed voter; make use of the resources at Project Vote Smart. Cost = $0.

Vote

Stand up for what you believe in by voting. It’s our inalienable right. Encourage your friends to vote. Support verified voting (a paper trail) and voter access. Cost = $0.

Use A Shopping Portal

Find one that donates a portion of purchases to homeless causes. Just remember to use the portal for your shopping needs (see our links page). Cost = It’s up to you!

Give Money To Schools You Don’t Know

Log on at donorschoose.com and peruse all the teacher requests across the country. When you find one that moves you, fund all or part of it. If you want the personal touch, buy school supplies for an impoverished school and deliver them yourself.

Give Money To Schools You Know

Support your local school. Support a poverty-stricken school in your community or in a community that you know is in trouble. Endow a scholarship or give a little money towards a scholarship fund. Education is the answer, it’s the best way up and out of poverty. Help break the cycle for a child or youth or adult learner, today.

If you take on any of these ripples, count on at least two hours of your time.

Put on Your Own Campus Awareness Event and Concert for Hope

Your educational institution may be thinking about how it can influence positive change. How about starting by putting on an awareness event to get students involved and inspired about the importance of making a difference in their communities and country? Showing that your school is involved in helping to make social changes may have positive impact on its enrollment, perception and philanthropy. Learn more here.

If You Have Time For A One-Time Event

You could have a food, clothing, book, or other needed-goods drive (check with your local charity to see what’s needed). Check it out: it isn’t hard to organize a book drive, see www.heartofamerica.org for hints. Cost = $0. Time = 1 month (irregular) to collect items; 1 trip to drop them off.

Support Your Local Economy

The 350 Project suggests selecting for every $100 spent in locally owned stores, $68 stays in the community, whereas spending at a chain leaves only $43 in the community, and with online spending, nothing comes home. They suggest choosing three local stores or restaurants you’d really miss if they went under, and spending $50 at these three stores every month.  Yes, you can save money online, so consider this an investment in local abundance.

Buy Then Donate Toys That Inspire Children

This one really needs no explanation, and the ripples it creates travel inward too, trust us. Cost = $25 – $35 (varies).

If You Have A Set Number Of Hours Per Week

You could… Doctors: consider volunteering at a free clinic or tattoo removal service, Professionals: teach a youth your skill, Become a mentor: help “aged out” foster care teens to become productive adults, Volunteer to work at a soup kitchen, job bank or shelter, Become a big brother or big sister, or guide a youth group, Teach someone to read, opening up a world of possibilities for them, forever, see our links page to get started today. Cost = $0.

Put On Events

Get your school or church or student group to put on a poverty-awareness event. Our website shows you how! Cost = from $0 (keep it low!). Prep time = 1 week to 1 month. Event time = 3 – 4 hours.

Make Movies

Create a video on domestic poverty and upload it to a video host. cost = minimal (borrow equipment) to +$10,000 CMF Elfenworks Prize. Time = 1 day, 1 week, it’s up to you!

Willing To Clean Out The Closet?

Got anything extra? Think of the use it could get in a homeless shelter? What about used toys? Used clothes? A used instrument for a school or community music program (e.g., Guitars Not Guns, see our Useful Links)? Cost = $0 Time = 5 hours: 4 hours to go through belongings; 1 hour to drop off at local donation site.

The following list is for those special individuals devoted to taking a stand, regardless of what it takes.

If You Have A Set Number Of Hours Per Week

You could… Doctors: consider volunteering at a free clinic or tattoo removal service, Professionals: teach a youth your skill, Become a mentor: help “agedout” foster care teens to become productive adults, Volunteer to work at a soup kitchen, job bank or shelter, Become a big brother or big sister, or guide a youth group, Teach someone to read, opening up a world of possibilities for them, forever, see our links page to get started today. Cost = $0.

If You Are Willing To Make A Long-Term Commitment

Join a volunteer corps and change the country while you gain experience and more… The many examples range from teaching opportunities to building homes or meeting other community needs in Americorps, where you also receive a per diem, lodging, meals, health benefits, student loan deferment, and nearly $5,000 to pay for school. We’ve listed some of these options for you on our links page! Cost = $0 to POSITIVE INCOME. Time = 1 – 2 years depending on organization.

If The Time You Have Varies

You could…become a more-or-less regular drop-in volunteer at your favorite aid organization. Cost = $0. Time = whatever you can spare.

If You Have One Week Or More For A Project

Your helping hands would be welcomed at Habitat for Humanity. One example: they could still use as many as 1,000 volunteers a day for Hurricane Katrina rebuilding, and volunteers have fallen to half that number. Cost = $0. Time = 1 week (or longer).

If You Wish To Work At Home

Do you knit or crochet, for example? Can you think of a use? Cost = $20 – $40. Time = 2 weeks, inside in spare time (depending on proficiency).