(ARA) — During tough economic times, it can be hard to find money in your budget to donate to charities. But there are many other ways to give back to the community that allow you to support charitable causes throughout the year.

The need for charitable donations this year is even greater because of the faltering economy — just as nonprofits fear donations will be decreasing, the demand for their services is increasing. All of this is happening as charities enter their key fundraising period of the year — between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day — when up to half of all individual donations are made.

In fact, 2008 and the following year are expected to be one of the most challenging periods charities have seen in some time. According to a survey released by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, donations to charities in 2007 grew by less than they had in years past. While almost two-thirds of charities raised more money in 2007 than 2006, the size of their gains dropped. With daily headlines reminding us that this economic climate will only get tougher, could there be a more compelling reason to give, be it a donation of money, time or skills?

“Families are stretched to the breaking point, and that has strengthened our resolve to do even more,” says Madonna King, president and CEO of Children’s Home Society & Family Services. “Contributions from donors and volunteers are essential, and their generosity makes it possible for us to continue our vital work on behalf of vulnerable children and families, here, at home, and around the world.”

As you look into your wallet and your heart during tough economic times, there are many meaningful ways to give back to the community. Here are some suggestions from nonprofit organizations, including Children’s Home Society & Family Services.

Stretch your holiday dollars to help others
Some stores donate a portion of their holiday sales to charity. It’s a way to increase the impact of your holiday gift giving while doing something good for the community. Another way to help others is to donate to charities in lieu of giving gifts. If you choose to do so, the charity may give you a tax receipt for your donation.

Your time is as good as gold
Choose to donate another precious commodity — your time. Volunteering for a good cause enables nonprofits to handle increased demand for services, and also allows you to give back in a very personal way. No matter how much time you have to give, you will be welcomed with open arms by those in need.

Where to find volunteer opportunities  
Many companies and organizations make volunteering part of their work culture, such as Foresters (TM), a leading fraternal benefit society that provides members with innovative life insurance products and benefits of membership. Foresters customers are known as members and get together locally for such projects as Habitat for Humanity home-builds and to refurbish Ronald McDonald Houses. Last year Foresters members donated 950,000 hours to help more than 400 charities.

Make giving part of your family’s DNA
The holidays are an important time to give back, but don’t forget about the rest of the year. There are worthy nonprofit organizations that offer volunteering opportunities on an ongoing basis. Find a local or national organization that supports a mission you and your family believe in and find a way to be involved regularly. It will help your kids understand important life lessons, help you meet other people and lend a helping hand to those who need your help the most.

Even if your wallet holds less for charitable donations this year, pick up the phone or stop by and volunteer your time wherever you can.

Courtesy of ARAcontent