12/03/2013 12:16 EST | Updated 02/02/2014 05:59 EST

5 Great Ways to Help Out Charities This #GivingTuesday

Black Friday, Cyber Monday...overwhelmed yet? Well, you're not alone. Creeping across the border from our American friends is a whole host of commercially-charged days that have one goal: to get you to buy as much as you can.

Traditionally following the American Thanksgiving, Black Friday is used to kick off the holiday shopping season. With the rise of online shopping, Cyber Monday is for those who don't feel up to braving the malls.

And then there's Giving Tuesday: a movement to return to a holiday spirit Charles Dickens would recognize.

Giving Tuesday offers an alternative to the glut of consumerism. Created by not-for-profits as a way to promote charitable giving, Giving Tuesday tries to infuse a drop of altruism into the season. Unlike the Friday and Monday preceding it, it's not all about parting with your money.

While donating to charities is a great way to participate in the movement, there are a few other ways you can join in the spirit of the season:

1) Volunteer: Giving your time is often as valuable as giving money. Sort food at a food bank, serve soup at a homeless shelter, walk dogs at an animal rescue or help tackle invasive species as a Conservation Volunteer. Whatever your skills, interests or talents, there is someone who can use your help.

2) Recycle: Want to make room for all those holiday gifts? Clean out the basement or garage and donate your old stuff to a clothing bank or thrift store. Many of these places run charitable programming for the under- or unemployed. Even old appliances can get a new lease on life from charities that provide housing for low income areas.

3) Give food: While you're cleaning out the garage, clean out the cupboards too! Food banks are always glad for donations at this time of year. Canned beans, peanut butter and baby formula are popular items. Check with your local food bank to see what items they need most.

4) Get social: Tweet, share, pin and like the photos and videos that charities post on social media. Help them get the word out about their cause and show your support by engaging in the conversation.

5) Donate: Last but not least, save a few dollars from the madness of Friday and Monday to give back to those causes that mean the most to you. Many charities have great holiday giving programs that make lovely gifts such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) Gifts of Canadian Nature program.

Written by Nicole Evelyn Senyi, the digital marketing coordinator at the Nature Conservancy of Canada and a contributor to Land Lines (the Nature Conservancy of Canada blog).


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