Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. You want to do something charitable, anything to help someone out, but it's hard to know where to look. Often it's not about money, but more about time and commitment, something we all probably have a bit more of these days than cold, hard cash.
Maybe that summer job didn't work out like you expected and you've got some time on your hands before you go back to school — or start looking for a real job — in the fall. So, Class of '09, here are five simple ways you can get started saving the world.
Tweeting for Good: If you were among the thousands who watched as Ashton Kutcher became the first person to gain 1 million Twitter followers in April, then you know that he promised to donate 10,000 mosquito bed nets to charity for World Malaria Day when he won. Well, now you can participate too. Kutcher's action was just one of the many examples of how people are "Tweeting for good," a movement that is helping to change the face of social action and opening the door for many more people to contribute to charities. If you're interested in doing your part, check out sites like Twestival, which helps raise money to bring safe, clean drinking water to people in developing nations, or Tweetsgiving, which raises funds to outfit classrooms in developing nations.
Raise Money by Blogging: Believe it or not, you can help raise money for some of your favorite charities on your blog or social network profile on Facebook or MySpace through the SocialVibe Web site. The more people that visit your blog or profile, the more money that goes to your cause thanks to the SocialVibe badge widget. The cause has gotten some star-power help from the likes of "Heroes" actress Hayden Panettiere, who has already gotten more than 162,000 signatures of support for the oceanic research and conservation group the Whaleman Foundation.
Get Involved in Your Community: By clicking over to All for Good, you can instantly find simple ways to get involved in your local community, from being a mentor to helping with animal adoption, being an educational interpreter at a local museum, providing food for families in need or hosting an international exchange student. President Obama has also gotten in on the action, announcing the United We Serve initiative, in which he's asking Americans to do their part this summer to help with the country's economic recovery.
Be a "Prosumer": Volunteering is one thing, but if you are looking for a way to make your hard-earned dollars talk, try being a "prosumer" instead of a "consumer," i.e., investing your cash in products that help charitable causes. One of the most prominent avenues for this kind of spending is (Red), a line of products ranging from American Express cards, iPod Nanos, Converse sneakers, Gap and Emporio Armani clothes and Starbucks cards that all donate money to help fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. The organization was co-founded by U2 singer Bono.
Sign an Online Petition: It seems like a totally old-school method of affecting change, but signing an online petition is actually a very effective way to make your voice heard. Check out sites like change.org, where you can ask Congress to act on climate change, let the Iranian government know that the world is watching, ask President Obama to do away with abstinence-only programs, advocate legalizing marijuana or tell the government to protect polar bears from the effects of global warming.
"Twilight" fans: Want to go to Twi-Con? You can, if you win MTV News' "Class of '09 Shout-Out Search." To enter, graduating seniors must submit a video to Your.MTV.com shouting out to the Class of '09. Tell us about your hopes and dreams, why the class of '09 is great or just say, "Best of luck!" We'll select the most fun, interesting and original video — and the winner will be announced by MTV News' own Larry Carroll on June 28, when he speaks at Forks High School in Washington. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday, June 26, so hurry!