Having enough spare cash to donate to your favourite charity on a regular basis is a dream rather than a reality for many Australians, but there are ways to give without causing yourself financial pain.
One of the newest tools for donating comes in the form of a new app from the Australian Conservation Foundation, which can put some money back in your wallet at the end of the financial year.
Called GreenSpringClean, the free app lets you snap a photo of your unwanted items and upload them to the online marketplace.
A buyer nominates what they're prepared to pay to take the item off your hands. That sale price is then transferred to the ACF in the form of a donation, which automatically issues a tax receipt to the seller.
This all happens online, with no cash changing hands, says Chuck Berger, the director of strategic ideas at ACF.
Berger says the app gives Australians a novel way to get some cash for their unwanted items during their spring clean, declutter their houses and reduce landfill.
"The GreenSpringClean app gives buyers and sellers the chance to snap up a bargain, realise value in stuff that's too good to throw away or too hard to give away, while also supporting the environment," he says.
"We've created an online marketplace with a high degree of customisation, so you're able to search for items listed in your local area or by the type of item you're after, for example. There are plenty of items that we want or need for the house which we don't necessarily have to buy from new, such as a lawnmower or some toys for the kids.
"Considering whether you could put a second-hand item to good use instead of heading out to the shops will save you money and stop endless items ending up at the tip. It's the responsible thing to do," Berger says.
The app was launched on September 18 and the marketplace will remain open until the end of October. If it is deemed a success, the app will become a permanent new income stream for ACF.
Many people donate to ACF regardless of whether they are offered a tax benefit, but Berger hopes the GreenSpringClean app will encourage people who haven't donated before to spring into action.
"Direct donations of goods often don't entitle the donor to a tax deduction," he says, "but GreenSpringClean is able to offer a tax receipt in all cases because what is being donated is the financial proceeds of goods, not the goods themselves."
With the global market for second-hand goods valued at $500 billion, people are realising the value in their unwanted items and looking for ways to capitalise on that, Berger says.
"Almost everything has value to someone, which is why the term 'waste' is being replaced by the concept of resource recovery."
If you don't have unwanted items to donate and still want to give something to charity, you could consider donating your time. Generation Y alone donates more than 192 million hours of time to Australian charities each year, worth $3.1 billion annually, according to new research by telco Optus, released in August. The research concludes that when it comes to volunteering, Generation Y is the nation's most charitable generational group.
Once dubbed the me generation, the research says that Generation Y is community minded and active, Sydney social researcher Claire Madden says.
"Far from being insular and self-focused, Australians in their 20s and early 30s are charitable with their time, have a strong social conscience and see volunteering as a way to create a better society," she says.
The research also found that members of Generation Y were generous with their personal finances, with 94 per cent having donated money to charity, although only one in five regularly dug deep.
Meanwhile, it costs you nothing to foster a puppy for Guide Dogs Australia, which calls for volunteers each year to take on a puppy while it's in training.
Giving blood is also free, with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service needing 27,000 blood donations every week. There are almost 500,000 voluntary unpaid donors in Australia.
If you are donating to any charity and are issued with a legitimate tax receipt, it will reduce your taxable income at the end of the financial year, says Lance Cunningham, the national tax director at BDO Australia.
"You just need to clarify with the charity that they are registered as a deductible gift recipient, meaning it's registered with the Australian Tax Office or the new Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit Commission. Most receipts from registered deductible gift recipients will indicate whether the gift is tax deductible but, if not, you'll need to ask that question if a deduction is important."
Yoy can ask your employer if they recognise charitable contributions via the PAYG statement, suggests Rosemarie Chad, founder of Sydney tax firm Australian Accountants.