If you can survive a haircut, you’re in good shape to donate SOMETHING.
Make no mistake: Donating money to most any type of charity is a good, worthwhile act. But as is the case inherent to medical causes, money can’t replace (or purchase) many body parts (organs, fluids, cells) of which people are in dire need. So based on your financial situation, health, and overall personal preference, you might want to consider skipping the financial support and donating parts of your own body.
Of course, depending on the body part and your attachment to it (pun completely intended), this could be a big sacrifice or a small one. No one can make the choice except for you, but we’re happy to provide a list of items on your body that could help people in need, so take a look and see if any of these items seem like something you wouldn’t mind parting with, especially since many replenish themselves.
In a medical capacity, hair’s used for wigs for men and women who have lost their hair, either due to a specific condition or, more likely due to chemotherapy. It’s solely cosmetic, but the reality is that the ravages cancer can take on a person’s appearance greatly affects their quality of life, confidence, and self-worth, so it’s not a trivial matter.
There’s less standardization among these charities since medical implications are non-existent. Generally, your hair needs to be ten inches long (some places accept eight), and sometimes coloring or treatment will preclude you from donating, and other times it won’t. It’s best just to snoop around the handful of charities and find one that works with your hair and preferences. The American Cancer Society and Locks of Love are great places to start.
Blood’s needed by trauma victims those with blood disorders, which are large enough groups to put this in high demand. There are some restrictions on who can and should donate, but if you’re in good health, you’re likely a viable candidate. Blood banks are everywhere, including in vehicles, and blood drives pop up all over the place. Find the most convenient place to give right here.
Oh, and January’s the best time to donate, so get on it.
Sperm donations exist for prospective parents (couples or singles) who need some sperm to make a baby. You know the drill. This is one of the least invasive donation processes for men with the only real requirement for approved donors being that they need to donate in a very specific window so that the sperm is still vital at the time it’s preserved.
Men will be screened for height, weight, medical history, and genetics. Fellas, find your local sperm bank here. Some pay up to $50 per donation, but if you’re being truly charitable, you probably realize that sperm banks aren’t awash in money, so you can forego it. Or take the cash and donate it elsewhere.
This is a bigger one, but the importance of this donation corresponds to the hardships donees face. Those suffering from leukemia, lymphoma, and autoimmune disorders are often on the waiting list for bone marrow transplants. Unlike blood, the likelihood of a donor matching a donee is far smaller, so more people need to get out there and get tested for those in the queue. Testing will put you on a registry, and you won’t undergo the procedure unless there’s a match in the waiting.
Younger people (under 45) are the most effective donors because their cells lead to more successful transplants, but there are exceptions, so don’t take the age limit as a hard and fast rule. Get on the National Bone Marrow Registry and make a difference to someone who may be in desperate need.
Note: You might have heard that donating can be painful and debilitating, with a giant needle injected into your hip or another bone for extraction. These days, things are less...terrible. You’ll take medication that causes marrow to release stem cells into your blood. You’ll donate a bunch of blood and a machine separates the stem cells from the plasma. Much better, right?
When babies are born prematurely, their mothers often aren’t far enough along in pregnancy to begin lactation. This is problematic because, although alternatives exist, natural breast milk is the best nutrition for the babies.
Of course, the universe of people producing breast milk at any given time is finite, so this is one of the more opportunistic donations on the list. Unfortunately, there’s enough going on with women producing breast milk (like their new children consuming it) that it’s not the most convenient time, but that’s the way it is. If you are pumping breast milk, pumping more is the only way to satisfy the premature babies in need.
Generally, organizations look for moms who have given birth in the past 12 months, but there are exceptions. The best advice is to find a local milk bank and see what the rules are. You’ll almost certainly be interviewed and blood tested and possibly submit doctor’s notes as to your health. Honestly, it’s an inconvenient process, especially for the moms of newborns, but hopefully you’ll see it as a worthwhile means to an end.
Umbilical Cord Blood
You have umbilical cord blood lying around, don’t you? Unfortunately, the answer is almost certainly, “no,” which is a shame because it’s teeming with stem cells that can be used to take on many of the same maladies that bone marrow donations do. As you would expect, the window to donate umbilical cord blood is extremely small (basically moments after birth), and you’ll need to prepare the paperwork a few weeks beforehand because you won’t want to be doing it while you hold your newborn.
A questionnaire, which is actually from the National Marrow Donor program, will get you started.
Your Vital Organs or Your Whole Damn Body
So it’s come to this. You’re dead and are no longer in need of your organs. That’s sad, but there’s a silver lining. If you’ve prepared your affairs (basically just registered as an organ donor), you’re in a good position to help a LOT of people who really could die without those organs you’re hanging onto. There are religious ceremonial reasons not to, but think long and hard about whether your humanity trumps those. You’re dead. Religion’s already done with you what it will*.
*That might be a total lie, depending on your religion, but I’m here to talk about organ donation, not theology.
The nice thing about this type of donation is that you really don’t have to do a thing but fill out the form. The doctors will sort out your various organs, and you’ll be unable to help them because, again, you’re dead. Sorry to keep bringing that up, but it’s kind of the crux of this whole process.
You’re also able to donate kidneys, parts of your liver, and select few other organs without being dead. Talk to the American Transplant Foundation about your considerations and they’ll steer you through that process.
You can register with your driver’s license or here to find your state’s registry. And if you’re interested in helping the process along while you’re living, you can make cash donations to the American Transplant Foundation, which works very hard to make sure this system saves as many lives as possible.
Oh, and if you’d rather your body go to “science,” which can mean many different things, you can check out ScienceCare. Your body may not directly save a life in this instance, but it could help educate a lot of people who undoubtedly will. And that’s cool, too.
Either way you should choose to donate your body, you’re also minimizing funeral costs to some degree, so that can benefit your surviving loved ones.
Hopefully, there’s an appealing avenue of action on this list. And if you’re just not inclined or can’t for any reason (and there are plenty), assuage any guilt by finding another worthwhile manner to help those who might not have, yet need, what you do.