hand gives coin to beggarWith the holidays upon us and the year coming to a close, it’s no-doubt that the topic of year-end giving and serving others is on the mind of many.  However, this may also be the time when you’re feeling the most pressed for cash.

So how can you make an impact or change with a cause you care about without having to break out your credit card or check book? Read on for four ways that you can make a difference:

Donate Non-Cash Items

It’s likely that you have clothes, books, housewares, or other miscellaneous items floating around your home that you no longer use. Set aside a Saturday morning and do a thorough gathering of items. You can either donate them directly to a cause of your choice or you can have a yard sale and donate the cash proceeds to a non-profit that may make better use of the funds than they would your old toaster.

Share Your Talents

Are you a musician, semi-professional baker, master organizer? Spend your time sharing your craft with others. Whether it’s playing music for the folks at an elderly care center, doing art and crafts with under privileged children or baking organic treats for the pups at your local animal shelter, whatever skill you pride yourself on can be put to good use for a cause you’re passionate about.

Get Online

If you’re unsure of where to start on your venture to give back, take to Google or use a website such as VolunteerMatch to find causes or organizations in your community that are in need of volunteers.

Start a Food, Toy or Fundraising Drive

You may not have the funds on hand to contribute, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help to organize a drive that could inspire others to donate. Reach out to the organization you’d like to assist and get some information on how you would host a drive at your office, with friends, or another group you’re a part of.

Before you do volunteering of any kind, think about the causes and issues you’re passionate about and then seek out organizations that are aligned with making a change in those areas. You’re more likely to enjoy the time you spend giving back when you’re affecting change in an area that you’re connected to.

Note:  Although you can’t deduct the value of your services given to a charity, you may be able to deduct some amounts you pay in giving services to a qualified organization, such as travel, meal ingredients for food prepared for a shelter, or holiday gifts purchased for homeless or foster children. In order to do so, the amounts must be un-reimbursed, directly connected with the services, and be expenses you incurred only due to the services you gave. In addition, if you drive your car on behalf of a charity in 2013, you can deduct 14 cents per mile. Always keep your receipts. If your contributions total more than $250 for the year, you’ll need an acknowledgement from the charity documenting the services you provided.