Five Geeky Ways to Give Back to the World, Even if You’re Broke

Geek!This is Xavier Lanier’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own.

NOTE: Xavier’s also running an HP Magic Giveaway at and isn’t officially entered in the Geeks contest. This is just a cross-promotion.

Chances are you feel you are broke or at least worried about going broke, but no matter how bad your situation is there’s always someone out there that’s less fortunate than you. Not all of us have time to volunteer at a local soup kitchen or enough spare cash to stamp out all the world’s ills, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an impact. Here are five ways to make a difference from the comfort of your desk.

1. Make a micro-loan. Lend a budding entrepreneur as little as $25 on Kiva and you can help lift her family out of poverty. Entrepreneurs on Kiva are from just about every corner of the world and your $25 can really make an impact in their lives. You get to choose the entrepreneur and receive email updates to see how her venture is going. When the loan is paid back you can lend the same cash to another entrepreneur, donate the money to Kiva or withdraw the money if you need it back. You’ll get a taste of what it’s like to be a high-powered venture capitalist on Sand Hill Road, minus the big paydays and having to occasionally tell your investors you lost their cash.

2. Build a Web site. There’s no shortage of organizations that need a new Web site created or their existing sites updated. Ask your local school, church or non-profit if you can put your geek powers to good use. A lot of smaller non-profits’ Web sites look like they haven’t been updated since 1999. You can use a free service like SynthaSite to create a new site for your favorite non-profit or bust out Dreamweaver to spruce up what they’ve already got. Adding driving directions, PayPal donation buttons and calendars to non-profits’ Web sites can be very helpful.

3. Scan and Restore Photos. Senior citizens’ photos are often tattered and torn. If you have a scanner, printer and basic Photoshop skills you can quickly restore your elderly neighbors’ old photos to their former glory. If you don’t have any old folks on your block call your local retirement home and drag your laptop, scanner and printer down there for an afternoon. Scanners and photo repair is like magic to people who were born long before the digital age. Print out clean copies of their wedding portraits and you’ll be their hero.

4. Put Your Social Network to Good Use. Find a cause you care about and ask all of your Facebook friends, Twitter followers and blog readers to contribute a buck each to it. Not everyone will contribute, but others will contribute more than you’re asking for. Pick an intriguing cause and ask your friends to share it with their friends regardless if they donate. If you get lucky you can raise a few thousand dollars.

5. Raise Awareness About an Issue. If you have the skills to splice together clips of your cat playing with your socks, then you can create a video that can raise awareness about an issue that matters. Grab factoids, music, video clips and photos from places like Flickr and Wikipedia. Mash them together to create a short movie that briefly describes the problem and what, who’s suffering and what can be done to help. Post your video on YouTube, share it on Facebook and email it to politicians.