Look for Oddball Opportunities to Give the Most to Charity for the Least Cost

You can write a cheque and mail it to your favourite charity. You can even phone them or check out their website and donate. This article, however, is about some more obscure ways to support your valued causes which may optimize the benefit of your donation for both you and your choice of charity.

Choose the Best Route for Your Donation to Your Favourite Charity: Maximize Contribution Matches

Too often in recent years a major natural disaster has devastated a part of the world where

the economy is already shaky. The Boxing Day Tsunami, the floods in Pakistan, the earthquake in Haiti are just a few that I remember too vividly. When these disasters attacked, many of us fought back the only way we could imagine: with money.


Our family donated generously to try to help in the aftermath of these events. We donated quickly, however we also scouted out the optimal way to donate. For example, we could have donated by sending a cheque to the Red Cross, by sending a cheque to the fund at our place of worship, or we could have donated through my husband’s place of work. The first two would have resulted in the aid agency getting our donation plus a matching donation from the Canadian government.

However, by donating through my husband’s place of work we had the donation first matched by his company, thus doubling it. Then the government matched both his and his employer’s donation. This resulted in 4 times more money going to the aid group than we spent. It was twice as much as if we’d donated directly to the aid agency. And it cost us nothing.

Recommendation: Before donating, do a quick check to see if there are ways to have your donation matched. Be especially on the lookout for multiple matches.

Look for Ways to Buy What You Need While Contributing to Charity

This is another route to donating that should cost you nothing but should be positively helpful.

If you are planning to make a purchase at the regular retail price, take a minute to check if there is a way to buy the item in a way that the retail margin goes to support charity.

Magazine Subscriptions
For example, you may want to buy a subscription to a magazine. Magazines often have a high retail markup, even on subscriptions. There is an organization called QSP that provides most of the retail margin on a subscription to a fundraising group. Many parents of school age children will already know this as their school may participate.

For example, by simply buying a subscription to a magazine, you could be donating up to 40% of the price of your subscription to a school or other fundraising group. If you don’t have children or grandchildren in the program, ask at work or amongst your friends and you will likely find someone who does. You can even just randomly pick a school or organization from the website to support!

Store Purchases
Another example of this is buying merchandise from Habitat for Humanity ReStores. The profits from your purchases help fund their programs. There are other charitable groups that run stores as well.

Gift Buying Scores Big Win for Charity

Keeping your mind in a charitable frame can help you spot other opportunities. While visiting a Potter’s Guild show, I noticed some bowls that would make a nice gift for a friend. However, these bowls would end up being a gift to far more than the happy couple-to-be.

The bowls were donated to the Guild show to be sold for a local food bank. So when I bought these bowls as a needed gift, I was actually paying the food bank for them. To make it even better, the Guild had arranged for corporate sponsors. Each time a bowl was sold, the sponsors contributed a matching amount to the food bank.

This was a win-win-win. I got the needed gift. The food bank got my money and the corporate matching money. And to complete the circle, the potter who donated the bowl got a charitable receipt for the initial value (not the matched value) of the bowl from the food bank. That helped the potter recover some of the costs for time, equipment, fuel, supplies and transportation.

Quick Wins
Other quick wins include buying something to support a charity that you can use to avoid buying something else. For example, if we need to provide the snack for a youth group, we may buy the popcorn from the Scouts rather than buy it from a retail store. (And remember I HAD to buy that Scouts’ popcorn anyway if I wanted to keep family harmony and stay in the will.)

Related Reading

Join In
Have you come up with unexpected ways to contribute to charity at less cost to yourself, or for more benefit for the charity? Please share your experiences with a comment.

2 thoughts on “Look for Oddball Opportunities to Give the Most to Charity for the Least Cost

  1. Great ideas. I donate to the Red Cross when there’s a huge disaster and the Canadian feds are matching. Excellent way to leverage. Donating directly is the way to go, thanks to the deduction. I am not a fan of charity lotteries; first off, they spend a huge portion on marketing and prizes. Plus it’s not tax deductible. So instead of a matched, deductible donation where 90%+ goes to the front line like the Red Cross, a lottery ticket isn’t deductible and is far less helpful.

    • Thanks, Joe! I agree about the lotteries. The fundraising companies claim they reach a part of the “market” that wouldn’t normally give to charity, but I’m not so sure. I’ve met people who think their $100 goes to charity, not the tiny fraction that actually does. And I know one smaller charity that was hard-selled into running a lottery and only broke even on the costs at about an hour before the lottery was drawn. They had a lot of sleepless nights before that fearing they would actually cost the organization money. Definitely NOT a good venture for them.

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