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7 ways to give to charity without even trying

Whether you're shopping on Amazon, choosing a new mobile plan or even just going for a walk, there are some surprising no-cost ways to help worthy causes.

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Marco

Charitable giving can be a tricky business. It takes money, of course, but also time. If both are in short supply, you can end up feeling like you're not doing enough.

I've got good news: You can give to charity without doing a thing -- or spending a dime.

Sort of. Thanks to a variety of sites and services, as well as some generous corporations and donors, charitable giving has rarely been easier or more affordable.

Suppose, for example, you're about to order some holiday gifts online. What if I told you that with zero extra effort, you could donate a percentage of that purchase to the charity of your choice? Pretty good, right? And truly no strings attached.

Other options may require a smidgen of effort, but rarely anything more challenging than opening an app or visiting a website.

With that philosophy in mind, I left out services like Checkpoints and Swagbucks, which will let you donate your rewards to charities but where you need to do a lot to actually earn those rewards -- watching videos, taking surveys and so on. That's great, and by all means take advantage if you've got time. But the idea here is to support charities with almost no effort at all, just by doing things you're already doing. Starting with something many of us do all the time: shopping at Amazon.

AmazonSmile

Logging on to amazon.com? Stop and head to smile.amazon.com instead. That's the portal to the commerce company's charity program, which donates a portion of every purchase you make. You can choose from well-known organizations like ASPCA and American Red Cross or search for just about any charity. (I'm currently donating to my daughter's high-school marching band program.)

Although Amazon doesn't specify exactly what percentage gets donated, to date the company has given nearly $38 million in total. Take note, however, that although you can take advantage of AmazonSmile on your mobile device, you have to use your mobile browser to do so. The Amazon apps don't currently recognize the Smile option.

Charity Miles

Going for a walk? A run? A bike ride? Turn those activities into donations with Charity Miles, a distance tracker that converts your movement into money for any of several dozen worthwhile causes. Its goal is twofold: To encourage you to exercise and to generate donations based on your log of that exercise. (Sponsors including Chobani, Humana and Johnson & Johnson support the efforts.)

The only real challenge is remembering to use the app. Don't forget to activate it before you head out and then deactivate it when you're done.

Credo Mobile

You pay a monthly bill for your cell phone, right? There's no getting around it. But what if you could pay a competitive rate and support a charity at the same time? That's the idea behind Credo Mobile, which supports "progressive causes" and "vital activism."

Credo operates on Verizon's network, so you need a compatible phone -- or you can buy one directly. Plans start at $30 per month, which options for sharing data plans among multiple devices.

Ebates

I'm a huge fan of cashback services such as Ebates, which bring you rebates that you couldn't have otherwise gotten. It's gravy -- sweet, sweet shopping gravy.

So why not pay it forward, so to speak? Instead of cutting you a check every quarter, Ebates can send your rebate to the charity of your choice. If you're working with a different cashback service that doesn't directly offer a charity option, you could always make the contribution yourself. Because, come on. It's like found money anyway!

GreaterGood

Brother, can you spare a click? GreaterGood violates the "without even trying" rule a little bit, in that you have to visit a site and -- gasp! -- click something, but that's hardly a hardship. The service connects you with 10 different click-to-give organizations, allowing to tackle everything from autism and Alzheimer's to the rainforest and veterans -- all with just a click. You can support each organization once a day.

It almost seems too good to be true -- giving meals or books or research funds just by clicking a banner. But that's how GreaterGood works, meaning it's worth the two minutes or so per day that it would take to support all 10 causes. Make this your browser's home page so you don't forget.

Load and Help

For the past several years, software developer SoftMaker has run a great fundraising effort during the holidays: Load and Help. It works like this: When you download any of three free SoftMaker programs -- FreeOffice 2016 for Windows, FreeOffice 2016 for Linux or FlexiPDF Basic 2017 for Windows -- the company will donate 0.10 euros.

And that's it. No strings attached. You don't even have to install the software, though who's going to turn down a free office suite? The only catch on this one is you have to get your download prior to Dec. 24.

WoofTrax

If you like the idea of Charity Miles but specifically want to help out our four-legged friends, WoofTrax works much the same way. It makes donations in exchange for miles logged in the app. You can select a local shelter or rescue to be the recipient of your walk funds, and of course you don't need to have an actual dog to participate, you just need to do the walking.

Have you find a fast and easy way to give to charity? Talk about it in the comments!