Oprah is giving generously this holiday season — here are 3 creative ways you can be charitable too

Oprah Winfrey on June 24, 2019, in Vancouver, Canada.
Andrew Chin | Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey has given away millions in donations and prizes over the years. This year, the media mogul and philanthropist increased her contribution to an institution close to her heart.

"I was really surprised to learn that it's been 30 years since I made that $12 million donation to Morehouse [College], so today I would like to add $13 million to that," Winfrey announced during a visit earlier this month to the historically black all-men's university.

The billionaire's history of giving to Morehouse College began in 1989 with a contribution that established the Oprah Winfrey Scholarship Fund. The recent surprise $13 million gift makes Winfrey's total contribution to the school to $25 million.

Winfrey is far from the only one thinking about philanthropy this time of year. Giving tends to increase around the holidays: About a quarter of Americans make most of their donations during the last three months of the year, according to Charity Navigator. And, experts say, the most effective way to give is to write a check or donate cash directly, like Winfrey did.

"People have been programmed to donate using a check or cash," says Avani Ramnani, director of financial planning and wealth management at Francis Financial in New York, New York. "It started with things like Girl Scouts, you buy cookies with cash and then give a little extra dollars towards the cause."

Now, however, there are more ways to get creative with your giving. Even if you have a lot less to work with, here are three ways to tap into the spirit of the season, like Oprah, and donate to a cause that matters to you.

1. Raise money for charity on social media

Rather than having your friends and family give you material gifts this year, ask that they donate to your charity of choice using Instagram stories. The photo sharing app has a new feature that allows eligible nonprofits and their supporters to raise money directly from the application.

You create the Instagram story, add the donation sticker and start raising money. For now, Facebook says, fees are waived, so 100% of the proceeds go to the charity you choose.

Courtesy of Instagram

Black Girls Code, No Kid Hungry, ASPCA, St. Jude, and the American Cancer Society are just some of the organizations currently accepting donations through Instagram.

And any U.S. nonprofit can join the app's database, as long as it is signed up to accept donations on Facebook and its Facebook is connected to their Instagram account.

2. Donate using your spare change

Ride sharing app Lyft allows customers to donate a portion of their fares using their Round Up & Donate feature.

To opt in, turn on the feature using the "Donate" button in the "Menu" section of the app. Once on, Lyft will automatically round up each ride payment to the nearest dollar: A $7.75 fare rounds up to $8, for instance, with the 25 cents difference donated to an organization of your choice.

As of 2018, Lyft passengers had rounded up the cost of 20 million rides to donate over $10 million to causes, the company announced.

Food delivery apps Grubhub and Seamless also offer customers the option of rounding up to the nearest dollar as a way to donate to No Kid Hungry, a national campaign to end childhood hunger in America.

3. Shop online for a cause

If you plan on doing some of your holiday shopping on Amazon, you can have part of the cost of your purchases go to charity via AmazonSmile. The website is operated by Amazon and carries most of the the same products, prices, and shopping features as Amazon.com.

When you shop on Amazon Smile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to a charitable organization of your choice, such as the ASPCA or the American Red Cross.

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