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December 16, 2011

The Savvy Girl's Guide to Giving Back

Don't have the extra cash or time to max out your karmic potential? Read our charity cheat sheet — a roundup of 10 easy ways to pay it forward and six women who make a difference daily.

woman with kids

Photo Credit: Bill Diodate

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1. BUDDY UP. Ever fantasized about dropping everything to help kids in need? Grab your computer and Webcam and check out Infinite Family (infinitefamily.org), a video mentoring site that connects volunteers with African preteens and teens. To join, you'll fill out an application, complete online training, and get access to a secure intranet for weekly video dates. Conversations occur between 8 a.m. and noon U.S. time; you'll clock in a good deed before lunch!

2. POST A COMMENT. Had a super time volunteering? Share it on great nonprofits (greatnonprofits.org), the yelp of charities; users can rate 1.2 million U.S.-based nonprofits. Simply log in, locate your charity, and enter your story, no username or password needed. Your review will instantly help others get the best experiences for their time.

3. SHOP FOR A CAUSE. Justify your online shopping habit using GoodShop (goodshop.com), which works with more than 2,500 retailers — Amazon, Apple, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, and more — to donate a percentage of your purchase to charity. Just designate your cause from among the site's 100,000 nonprofit partners (or add your own favorite organization), then click on the store logos to browse online; the percentage each merchant gives is clearly listed (J.Crew is 5 percent; Barneys New York is 2.5). Knowing that $100 sweater will net $5 for those in need is a perfect excuse to splurge.

4. SNACK MORE. Eat your way to a better world with Common Kindness (commonkindness.com), a food coupon site. Create an account, choose your charity, and rack up savings at your local market — everything from 50 cents off Cabot Greek yogurt to $1 off Pillsbury cookie dough. Common Kindness bills the companies a quarter per coupon you use, giving 5 cents to your cause.

5. TAKE A BREAK. Got a couple minutes? Make them count. Visit Sparked (sparked.com), a volunteering site for professionals, while you're waiting in line or having lunch. The site's Web-based tasks take between five minutes and two hours: You can offer ideas for a nonprofit's fundraiser, write a letter to an underprivileged child, create a new logo for an organization that can't afford a graphic designer, and more. You'll get a weekly e-mail with options based on your interests. Or search the site by cause or location to choose an activity.

6. FIND A FEEL-GOOD STEAL. Dealgooder (dealgooder.com) has local bargains with a twist: Each purchase beneftis a nonprofit, from Team Kids to Human Options, which helps battered women. When a $10 pizza coupon earns cash for a good cause, everyone's satisfied.

7. GET APP-Y. Check out these altruistic apps: Phospho, a 99-cent flashlight app, gives its entire sticker price to Sightsavers International, the Himalayan Cataract Project, and Vitamin Angels to fight global blindness. Snooze, an alarm app, charges you 25 cents for the cause of your choice each time you sleep in. Guilt-free extra zzz's!

8. PLAY A GAME. Stow your Wii! Give back and goof off with a Web game instead. Free Rice (freerice.com) donates rice to the United Nations World Food Programme for right answers; puzzle site Charitii (charitii.com) gives advertiser fees to groups like The Nature Conservancy.

9. SPARE SOME CHANGE. Impulse-shop freely when you enter your credit- or debit-card info at SwipeGood (swipegood.com). The secure site rounds up the cost of any purchase to the nearest dollar, giving the difference to your chosen charity.

10. CHANNEL SURF ON YOUTUBE. Visit VisoGive (youtube.com/user/give), YouTube's nonprofit channel; charities upload fun videos and earn 60 percent of the ad revenue when you watch. Sure beats clips of stupid pet tricks!

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