Five ways to give when you’re short on money

The economy can be a roller coaster, and with things like “Brexit” and climate change, the world can feel as if it is in turmoil. On top of that you’re worried about job security or paying back student loans, and giving seems like a secondary priority.

Don’t lose heart. Giving back and making a difference don’t have to break the bank. Here are some low-cost and meaningful ways to give.

1. Cultivate an attitude of abundance

Let’s start with our minds. Be courageous and realize that you have more than you think. If you have a bed, shelter, clothing, a job, and family or friends, then you are in a very “wealthy” state.

Go over the positives in your life. Write down heartfelt quotes that inspire you. As you fill yourself up with this goodness, you will be able to give to others.

2. Pick up the phone

Instead of being constantly worried about where the world is going, why not pick up the phone and find out how someone else is doing?

Calling someone “for no reason” is an important opportunity to show them that you are thinking of them. You are taking time out of your busy day to reach out. Everyone needs someone to just listen sometimes. They may be filled with joy or sadness. Be there to celebrate their good news, or support them with compassion.

3. Write a note

While some people enjoy receiving gifts, all of us appreciate a kind word. It is one thing to say it, but it can be even more meaningful to put it in writing. What if you made a commitment to write a thank-you note to someone every week?

You can congratulate friends on a new job, express condolences for the death of a loved one, or simply say you are thinking of them. You can think of any positive reason you like. Handwritten letters are memorable and heartfelt.

4. Invite someone over for dinner

You never know what someone might be going through – a painful divorce, a tough college semester, or just a bad day. Opening up your home will make someone feel appreciated. In addition, it costs less than going out. The leftovers from this dinner can be packaged up for homeless people. That’s double giving!

5. Set aside money from a daily ritual to donate

Giving doesn’t have to mean a life full of sacrifices. You can still buy a burger or get your nails done. But instead of buying several coffees every week, you can drink one fewer. Donate the money you save: Even $5 can make a difference in someone’s life. In the United States it can buy a small lunch, but abroad it can be used to build a library or buy mosquito nets to help prevent malaria.

Difficult financial times don’t mean your giving shuts down. Instead, they allow you to examine how your time and money are spent. There are so many ways to give back that won’t hurt your wallet and will enrich your life.

Take the Christian Science Monitor’s Quiz: What kind of giver are you? 

Current Event-Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR)

By Molly Dietrich

western-saharaThe last colony in Africa was not conquered by Europeans, the invasion was by another African country. About 80% of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), formally known as Western Sahara, went under Moroccan control after the Spanish withdrew from the area in 1976. The Sahrawi Polisario front fought for their land through guerilla warfare until a ceasefire in 1991. The conflict is physically illustrated by the “sand berm” or wall built by the Moroccans that stretches 1,700 miles across the length of SADR.

Today, people of SADR are experiencing human rights violations including the torture of Sahrawi detainees and violence against Sahrawi women. Sahrawi refugees have taken shelter in neighboring countries – 165,000 Sahrawi people are in Algerian camps, and 26,000 are in Mauritanian camps. This is a significant amount of SADR’s population which was 587,000 in 2016. The living conditions for these refugees are terrible.

Although the Sahrawi struggle has lasted about 40 years there is a newly ignited international awareness with the admittance of Morocco into the African Union (AU) this January. The conflict is at the top of the AU’s agenda and international powers are pushing for a solution. Unfortunately, Morocco continues to refuse to recognize SADR. Although there is currently a ceasefire, tension is high and Sahrawis believe there is potential for a renewed conflict.

The United States currently supports the Sahrawis in their fight for self-determination.

UniversalGiving stands in solidarity with the Sahrawi people and we ask you to remember how important it is to support emergency response efforts around the world.

“The World Factbook.” Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

Make a Wish Come True

By Cheryl Mahoney

“People want to help people.”

This was a thought expressed by Dave Girgenti in a recent USA Today article: “Website Connects Needy to the Charitable.”  Girgenti is the founder of Wish Upon a Hero, which does just what the USA Today headline suggests: connecting people in need with people who want to help.
Wish Upon a Hero is a website where anyone can post their wish–and anyone can help fulfill it.  I glanced over the wishes on the front page, and found requests for gifts for family members, pleas for help to make a rent payment, hope that someone will assist with schooling, a need for special equipment for a handicapped sibling…some wishes are big, but many are just people who need a little bit of help.  Check it out and see what you find, but be warned–some stories are heartbreaking.

It reminds me that what most of us probably take for granted–money for rent, the ability to buy a gift–can be someone else’s dearest wish.

So often people say, “I wish I could help someone, but I don’t know how.”  And so many people are saying, “I wish someone could help me.”  Wish Upon a Hero brings these two groups together –and it’s working.  According to the counter on the site, almost 31,000 wishes have been granted so far.  With those results, one could almost imagine they’re using pixie dust!

The Rickshaw Puller

Here’s a blogpost from Anshu Priya, who used to work for our marketing department! We love this story and think it promotes a great mindset to go into the giving season with!



I grew up in a household where giving and sharing was part of everyday life. And for that reason, UniversalGiving’s motto and overall objective really resonated with me. I was born in India. In one of the poorest states of India, in fact. Bihar. Poor not just in terms of people not having money, and basic food and shelter, but in terms of low access to healthcare, clean water and so on. We were fortunate to be born into a household that did not have to fight for survival, and where we could afford luxuries from time to time.

My grandfather was part of the Gandhian movement, and that meant that he believed in equality and a minimalistic lifestyle. Also, sharing and caring for those around us was not something that was considered a virtue. It was just something that was intrinsic to our lives, and the family went about doing it without expecting to be lauded for it in any way.

I had often seen my mother go out of her way to help those around us – even though she was a single parent of two children, and I had to watch her spending continuously to make sure we had a reasonably good lifestyle. The message we always got from her was one about compassion, about counting our blessings and helping those that were less fortunate. One particular incident stands out for me, and I will try and retell it as closely as I remember it, since this happened many, many years ago.

It was morning, and we were getting dressed for school. That chaotic time in a household when everyone wishes they had those extra ten minutes – to sleep in, to finish their breakfast, to polish their shoes. There was a loud, urgent knock on the door. We were not expecting anyone, so my brother (who was little at the time, maybe six) and I looked at each other and wondered who it might be. My mom took the door, almost exasperated that the already chaotic morning schedule was being derailed somewhat. She opened the door to find this old man, looking exhausted, famished and just generally unwell. It was summer, and the heat and humidity in Bihar can take everything out of you. My mother first offered him a drink of water, which he gulped down at record speed, and then asked why he was there. He said in Hindi “ Joota wali didi kahan hain?” meaning “ Where is the shoe lady?”

Ma said she didn’t understand, and then they went on to have a conversation about it. Turns out, every time my mother would board a rickshaw (a manually pulled basic mode of transport used a lot by people who do not own/drive cars), she would be heartbroken at the sight of the rickshaw pullers who did not own footwear and who were forced to peddle their rickshaws barefooted in the scorching heat. Along with paying them for the ride, she would also give them extra money so they could buy themselves a pair of basic footwear. She later told us that she had done this for a lot of them. And this particular one had found out about Ma and came right to her door to ask her for help. Ma helped him out with some food supplies, a pair of clothes, and of course some money for him to buy shoes. She let him go after telling him that he should respect our privacy and not send any more strangers to our door for safety reasons!!

The old man smiled, nodded, thanked her profusely and left after showering his blessings on my brother and I.

I have never felt more proud of my mother. In all this, what struck me most was that she had not mentioned a word of this to anyone. In this world where we tend to scream out about every little thing we do, this selfless act of silence stayed with me forever.

I have used Google to pull up an image of a rickshaw similar to the one she used then to get around about town.



Pamela’s Weekly Words of Wisdom: Give A Gift Every Day

Give a gift every day.

Send your friend’s birthday gift early.

See a gift that would be meaningful for someone you care about, and just buy it. Give it to them now.

Take the time to cook a meal for your partner or your roommate.  Take the time to cook a meal for yourself.

Smile at a person walking down the street.

Smile at a homeless person and stop and learn their name. There is the gift of knowing someone. Of acknowledging you care.

Be kind to yourself.

Get in bed early.

Say three gratefuls before you fall asleep.

Say three gratefuls when you wake up.

Believe today is special.

Take time at lunch to be grateful for three more things.

Pay the phonebill for your roommate.

Drop off banana bread for your neighbor.

Give a lot. Expect little.

Smile at yourself in the mirror.

Work hard and attain the gift of devotion to something you believe in.

Work and leave early and give yourself a gentle night off, nurturing yourself.

Stop and look at nature. Any part of nature. The expanse of the sky; drifting clouds; a vibrant flower.

Give yourself the gift of awareness of how precious and beautiful life is every day.