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Charitable Things to Do That Won’t Cost You a Penny

Read my new CultNoise magazine article on charitable things to do that are absolutely free:

The UK is an extremely charitable country and I think it is instilled in us all from a young age to help others less fortunate and to spare what you can if it can benefit someone else. As a child, I did fundraising for the PDSA, a UK charity that provides free veterinary services for the pets of needy owners. I took part in the PDSA PetAid Challenge, which is great fun and a brilliant way to get children involved in charity work.

Image courtesy of Ilmicrofono Oggiono, via Flickr

But as I am now a full-time student with little pennies or time to spare, I’ve been looking for other ways to do good things for others that don’t break the bank. If you are in a similar predicament, there are countless charitable things you can do that won’t cost you a penny. Here are just a few:

Donate Unwanted Items

Like most of us, I’ve wasted many a Sunday eating the entire contents of the kitchen and binge-watching Game of Thrones, rather than doing anything productive or useful. But I am partial to a bit of a spring clean on a Sunday.* Spending the usually completely wasted day having a clear out, in addition to giving you more space in that over-flowing bedroom, will give you bags of unwanted items that you can donate to charity.

Going through my wardrobe every couple of months produces bin bags full of clothes that I never wear, but if you go the whole hog and gut out your entire bedroom – through all your drawers, under your bed, under your desk, on top of your wardrobe – you’ll be amazed at how many things you’ll find that you can do without and that someone else could benefit from.

Once you’ve gone through the contents of your bedroom – stumbling across those pink Barbie roller skates you haven’t seen since you were eight-years-old and that old family video from your holiday in Portugal where you were scorned with the worst sunburn of your life – you can take the bags of unwanted knick-knacks down to your local charity shop or clothing bank where they will raise money for those less fortunate or go directly to those in need.

*Top tip: playing some music while you’re cleaning and organising will make that usually slow dragging Sunday fly in.

Donate Blood

Blood donation is a service that the NHS would not be able to survive without. Yet, despite its importance, only around 4% of adults are currently registered to donate blood in the UK – even though around 25% of us will require blood at some point in our lifetime.

If you are between the ages of 17-66 and weigh 7st 12lb or over, you could be eligible to give blood (providing you: haven’t had a piercing or tattoo in the last 12 months, do not have certain health conditions, and meet the other requirements to donate).

If you are able to give blood and you are not overly bothered by needles, then giving blood is a no brainer. If you were in hospital and needed a blood transfusion, you’d expect to receive one immediately. If you would be willing to accept blood, you should be willing to give blood too. And if you are a little squeamish and that’s what’s holding you back from donating, you won’t actually see any blood and the scratch of the needle is a small pain that only lasts for a few seconds. After which, you will be monitored for a while to ensure you are not light-headed or dizzy and you’ll be given some sugary treats and a choice of tea, coffee or juice to replenish you.

Donating blood saves lives. Isn’t that worth having a few minutes of discomfort for?

For more information on who can donate and how to register, click one of the following links:

NHSBT Give Blood England and Wales

Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service

Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service

Blood Donation

Sign up for Organ Donation

Signing up to donate your organs after your death is another wonderful thing you can do that won’t cost you a penny. When you pass away, you won’t be using your organs anymore: so why keep them? Donating your organs could save up to 8 lives. It’s another no brainer, right?

Almost all of us would accept an organ transplant if we needed one, yet, only around one-third of us are registered organ donors. The more people who are forced to wait for an organ, the longer their suffering lasts. Signing up for organ donation today could not only save someone’s life but give them a much greater quality of life too. And that truly is a gift that keeps on giving.

Letting your family know about your wishes in the event of your death and signing up to the register is so important to ensuring that your organs are used for donation, so be sure to do just that.

For more information on organ donation and how vital it is to saving lives, visit the NHS Blood and Transplant website or call 0300 123 23 23 to sign up over the phone.


Sign up for Bone Marrow Donation

If you’re between the ages of 16-30 and weigh at least 7st 12lb, you could be eligable to donate bone marrow – which could save the life of someone with blood cancer – by signing up with Anthony Nolan, a UK charity that works in the areas of leukaemia and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. 

There seems to be a lot of misunderstood information floating around about donating bone marrow, which isn’t surprising because it can be quite complicated. Many people don’t know exactly what bone marrow is, what it is used for or who it benefits. But one of the biggest misconceptions of bone marrow donation is that it is a very painful procedure. Many prospective donors are scared off by the idea of having two needles extracting the bone marrow from the pelvis. But if you don’t like the sound of this, there is another method! To find out more about everything from the Spit Kit, what bone marrow actually is, why it’s so important and the difference between the PBSC and the Bone Marrow Harvest methods, watch this short video created by Anthony Nolan which explains everything you need to know about donating bone marrow:

Donating bone marrow is a lot more complex than giving blood or signing up to be an organ donor, but if you prove to be a match for someone, you could be providing a lifeline that nobody else is capable of giving.

For more information on how to register, visit Anthony Nolan’s “Donate Your Stem Cells” page.


Aside from donating things like personal possessions, money, blood etc., you could also help those in your community by simply donating your time. Volunteering with your local charity shop, homeless shelter, animal shelter, food bank or community centre will give the organisation another valuable pair of hands and, as well as helping someone in a practical sense, you could be helping to brighten their day simply by talking to and spending time with them. Being supportive in person can be just as valuable as donating money.

For more information and ideas on volunteering, click the following links:

Volunteer Scotland

Volunteer England

Volunteering Wales

Volunteer Now (Northern Ireland)

Happy Volunteer -  image courtesy of Dave Bezaire & Susi Havens-Bezai.

Get Creative

Another option for doing something charitable that won’t cost money is to make something that can be donated or sold to raise money for charity. If you’re a dab hand in the kitchen, why not make cakes and have a bake sale? If you knit, you could make a blanket for your local homeless/animal shelter or knit teddy bears that could be given to children’s charities. There are 101 things to choose from when it comes to charitable things and good deeds, but if none of these suit you and you’re more of the fundraising/event organising type, read the Run for Charity Top 100 Fundraising Ideas or come up with your own idea!

Offer Support

Samaritans is an extraordinary charity that offers support to those suffering from mental illness, suicidal thoughts, grief, abuse and a host of other issues. The Samaritans helpline (08457 90 90 90) is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, taking calls from those who need someone to talk to. Volunteering for Samaritans is not for the faint-hearted, but if you feel that you are emotionally and mentally stable enough to volunteer, you will be doing something amazing that can help so many people. The idea behind the support Samaritans offer is simple but profound in that listening to someone, letting them know they are not alone and referring them to support organisations specific to their situation could save their life. To find out what it’s like being a Samaritans volunteer, watch this short video:

For more information on the work Samaritans do and how to become a volunteer, visit the volunteer page on their website.

If volunteering for Samaritans wouldn’t personally suit you, you can still help the charity by participating in their Operation Christmas Child campaign where you can fill a shoebox with toys and presents for a needy child living in poverty and/or conflict for them to receive on Christmas day. (This will technically cost you some money, but not much with the advised gifts including: toys like yo-yos, toy trucks and small puzzles; school supplies like pens, pencils, crayons etc.; hygiene items like a toothbrush and toothpaste, soap and combs; and other items like hats, gloves, sunglasses, jewellery, windup torch etc.) Your personally-arranged gift box could be the only present a child receives at Christmas, so it is a small thing to do that will make a huge difference to a needy child.


By doing something charitable, you’re not only helping someone else, but you could think of it as storing up some good deed points in that old karma piggy bank too. If you’d like to think that someone would help you in your hour of need, you should be willing to help others too.

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