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For March Madness, do good works

Introduce a touch of philanthropy to the annual hoops extravaganza.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 18, 2011 9:54AM

Planning any March Madness parties? Mix a dose of kindness into your day(s) of sports worship.

People are in the mood to wager. So why not make some of those bets humanitarian in nature?  Post continues after video.

This way you kill two birds with the same frugal stone: You get to be entertained while making a charitable contribution. Run the following ideas past your fellow basketball fans and see if they agree.

  • Go ahead with the friendly wagers. But suggest that a portion of the winnings be donated to a local food bank -- which can stretch those dollars through the power of bulk buying -- or to reputable groups providing aid to Japan. (See "Japan's earthquake: How to avoid charity scams" for tips.)
  • If the party's at your place, ask guests to bring non-food items such as diapers, laundry detergent, paper products, disposable razors, or toiletries. (Some of these items might be available for free after rebate.) Donate them to a local emergency pantry.
  • Any pet lovers in the crowd? Accept donations of pet food and cat litter to be donated to animal control or to regional rescue groups.
  • Gloves, socks and caps are needed at homeless shelters. Check clearance tables; recently I found those stretchy knitted gloves remaindered for 17 cents a pair. The shelters can use toiletries, too.
  • Is there a veterans group or a senior center in your region? Members of both groups may be hard-hit by rising costs of basics like food and gasoline. They might welcome some of the items noted above.
  • Paper, pens, notebooks, backpacks and children's books (including used ones in good repair) would be welcomed by your local elementary school.
While you're eating nachos and drinking beer in a warm house while watching a big-screen TV, remember how lucky you are to be where you are.

And yeah, egg on your friends: "You really think your team's got a chance? Well, how about we add an extra 12-pack of disposable razors and a copy of 'Charlotte’s Web' to our little wager?"

No matter who loses, somebody else wins.

MSN Money columnist Donna Freedman blogs at
Smart Spending and Surviving and Thriving.

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