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7 ways to give to charity without even trying

All it takes is a click here or a tap there and you can make a difference -- without spending any of your own money.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
4 min read

We all have our excuses when it comes to supporting charitable causes: We don't have the time. We don't have the money. We don't have the time or the money. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, all that feels true now more than ever.

Let's toss those excuses out the window, shall we? Because it's actually quick and easy to donate, and in many cases it's free as well. Here are seven ways to give to charity with little to no effort -- or expense.

Amazon Smile


Amazon's give-back program costs you nothing but a click.


Ever buy anything from Amazon? Thought so. Want a portion of nearly every purchase to go to charity? Duh! That's Amazon Smile in a nutshell. Just point your browser (or modify your bookmark) to smile.amazon.com, then choose a charity you want to support. (For example, I went hyper-local and helped my daughter's high-school marching band and percussion group.)

Then just shop like normal. So long as you're doing it via Smile, Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of all eligible purchases. All prices and products are the same as they would be if you bought them at the usual Amazon address.

If you shop using the Amazon mobile app, follow these simple instructions to enable Amazon Smile on your phone or tablet.


I know, I know: You hate browser extensions. But maybe think about putting up with this one? Altruisto is a Chrome extension that works with over 1,000 partner stores to make charitable donations from a portion of your purchases.

Those stores include Etsy, eBay, Barnes & Noble, Microsoft and Booking.com, to name a few. The donations are split up between various charities, all of them vetted by GiveWell.org. Altruisto itself is a Community Interest Company and has a thoroughly comprehensive FAQ section regarding its structure and policies.

As with Amazon Smile, this is a free and easy way to help severely underfunded causes just by shopping as you normally do.


Partnered with hundreds of stores and services ranging from Airbnb to Zappos, Benefit is kind of like a cash-back service -- but think of it as "cash-forward" instead.

It works like this: When you buy something from a participating retailer, either online or in-store, you first purchase a gift card via the Benefit app (available on Android or iOS). Then you simply use that gift card to make your purchase.

And that's all there is to it. A percentage of that purchase will automatically go to the destination of your choice: School, charity, nonprofit or even your own pocket.

The actual percentage varies depending on whether you link Benefit to your bank account or a credit card; rates are much higher (often double) when you opt for the former. For example, you can score a 2-percent rebate on all Amazon purchases if you've set up Benefit with your bank account; it's 0.5 percent with a credit card. Eating at Applebee's? The rebates there are 6 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

Although there's a prepurchase step involved every time you use Benefit, it's a simple one -- and a very easy way to give back.

Charity Miles

Charity Miles App

Charity Miles App

Katie Conner/CBS Interactive

Do you walk? Run? Bike? Track your activity with the Charity Miles app and turn those activities into charitable donations. All you do is log your miles -- actually, the app logs them for you -- then choose from a rotating selection of charities. The donations come from "forward-thinking" sponsor companies.

So, basically, Charity Miles turns your movement into money for worthy causes. Another free-and-easy option!

Donate a Photo

Donate a Photo is a free app that makes helping people as easy as snapping a picture. For each photo you "donate" through the app, Johnson & Johnson makes a $1 donation toward the cause or charity of your choice.

You can donate one photo per day, which works out to an almost effortless $365 to charity each year.

Giving Assistant

Kind of like a cross between Altruisto and Benefit, Giving Assistant is a cash-back service that lets you donate your rebates to charity. It works in your desktop browser in much the same way as other cash-back services: You simply click through to the store (Giving Assistant has partnered with thousands of them) where you want to buy something, then make your purchase like you normally would.


Enlarge Image

Instead of using Bing or Google, try SearchScene. The search engine donates 95% of profits to charity.

Rick Broida/CNET

Call it a Bing that gives back. SearchScene is a Microsoft Bing-powered search engine that donates 95% of its profits to worthy causes -- primarily those related to poverty and the environment. Revenue goes to Oxfam, UNICEF, WaterAid and more.

The site makes money through advertising, the same as other search engines. The difference, of course, is that most of those proceeds go to charity. You can choose specific ones you want to support or just let them all share equally. 

Those are the tools I've found that make giving free and easy. If you've found others, by all means name them in the comments!