What Can I Donate to Help People With Cancer?

July 23, 2019
Sonja Hibbs

Yes, financial donations are important to cancer organizations and the people and programs they support, including research to advance new treatments. But there are many other kinds of donations you can make that are also valuable. If you’re looking for ways to make a difference in the life of people with cancer, consider exploring these options:share on twitter

  1. Donate blood or platelets. Extra blood is critical to many people with cancer, during and after treatment. Two types of blood donations needed are:

    • Whole-blood donation. Approximately 1 pint of blood is collected through a vein in your arm. The actual donation only takes about 10 minutes. You can donate blood every 56 days.

    • Platelet donation. You can donate just a portion of your blood called platelets, which form clots that help stop bleeding. During this 2-hour process, a machine connected to both of your arms draws blood, separates out the platelets, and sends the remaining blood back into your body. You can donate platelets once a week, up to 24 times a year.

    Learn more about how to donate blood or platelets.

  2. Donate bone marrow. Did you know that a bone marrow transplant, also called a stem cell transplant, can increase survival rates for some people with cancer—or even provide a cure? Today, it’s easier to be a lifesaving bone marrow donor than ever before. Bone marrow, the spongy material inside bones, contains blood-forming stem cells the body needs. But certain cancers keep these cells from developing normally. A bone marrow transplant replaces diseased bone marrow with healthy stem cells from a donor. One way you can donate those stem cells is through a simple blood draw. Get more information on how simple the donation process can be. 

  3. Donate umbilical cord blood. Those crucial blood-forming cells for bone marrow transplants can also be found in umbilical cord blood. If you’re pregnant, you can choose to donate that blood before the cord is thrown away. The simple and painless 5-minute donation process is safe for you and your baby. If you want to learn more about donating, talk with your obstetrician before your 34th week of pregnancy. You can also read more about how umbilical cord blood can save someone’s life.

  4. Donate biospecimens. Donating biospecimens can help advance cancer research. Biospecimens are samples of materials from the human body, such as blood, urine, saliva, cells, or tissues from biopsies or surgeries. Researchers need samples from people who don’t have cancer as well as from those who do. If you’re having a biospecimen collected during a medical procedure or test, ask your doctor how you can donate it. Read what 2 cancer experts have to say about the importance of donating biospecimens for cancer research.

  5. Donate your voice. Being a cancer advocate means speaking out on behalf of a specific cancer-related cause. Many cancer organizations offer advocacy training that can get you started. There are several advocacy activities to choose from, including:

    • Supporting laws that help people with cancer and their families

    • Speaking out about issues that affect people with cancer

    • Taking part in efforts to change policies around access to health care or funding for research

    • Working with scientists to advance cancer research

    Find out more about being a cancer advocate.

  6. Donate your time to a cancer organization. In addition to advocacy, cancer organizations offer all kinds of volunteer opportunities. Contact a local cancer group that interests you to find out how you can help. Or, contact your local hospital, cancer center, associations, and places of worship to learn about their cancer volunteer programs. If you’re a cancer survivor or were a caregiver to a person with cancer, you may want to become a support group leader or a support buddy for other people and families dealing with the disease. 

  7. Donate your time to an individual. Help a family member, friend, or member of your community with daily tasks that can become overwhelming during cancer treatment. Ask if you can bring a meal, provide transportation to an appointment, run an errand, care for a pet, go to the supermarket, or do household chores. Or, just lend an ear. Talking with someone who has cancer and providing a comforting presence can be as important as providing practical support.

  8. Donate your hair. Certain cancer treatments can cause hair loss. There are several organizations that can turn your long locks into free or low-cost wigs for people experiencing this emotionally challenging side effect. A wig can provide self-confidence, strength, and hope. Carefully follow the donation requirements and haircut instructions of the organization you choose. Learn how to donate your hair in 3 simple steps.

  9. Donate your vehicle. There are cancer organizations that accept donations of running and nonrunning cars, trucks, trailers, motorcycles, RVs, and boats. A vehicle may be used to help people with cancer get to treatment appointments or be sold to raise funds. Vehicle donations are often tax-deductible. Be aware that many for-profit companies manage vehicle donations for charities. Make sure you understand how the charities benefit from vehicle donations that are managed by a separate company. Or, consider working with a cancer organization that will directly manage your vehicle donation.

  10. Donate your goods. Clothes you’ve outgrown, books that you’ve read, and furniture you don’t need anymore can raise vital funds for cancer organizations that run thrift shops. Ask your local hospital or cancer center if they run a charity shop or know of any local cancer organizations that do. Don’t forget to get a receipt for your donation for a potential tax deduction.

  11. Donate your air miles. If you have extra air miles or frequent flier miles, you may be able to donate them to a cancer organization. The miles are often used to help people with cancer and family members travel to non-local treatment centers. Several major airlines have donation programs. Visit their websites to find out more information about the organizations they work with and air mile donation rules and requirements. 

  12. Donate assets. Instead of cash, you can donate assets, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and property, directly to many cancer organizations, like Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation. Not only are you providing much-needed funds to a great cause, you may also see benefits in your taxes. You can also make financial gifts to an organization through your will or trust, or you can name the organization as a beneficiary of your retirement plan or life insurance policy. Talk with your financial advisor to learn more about these and other charitable gift options. Before you give any kind of financial asset to a charity, do your research. You want to be sure that every dollar is put to good use. Read these tips on finding a top-notch charity to support

Cancer.Net is supported by the donors of Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, a Four-Star Charity Navigator-rated and BBB-accredited nonprofit organization. Conquer Cancer raises funds to support research for every type of cancer around the world.