Nonprofits Face Challenging End-of-Year Giving Season

A look at financial hurdles confronting charities, plus strategies for individuals who want to help.

High school parents can get involved at their child’s school as a PTA volunteer.

Burns agrees, adding that for nonprofits, the "sales and marketing side is more important than ever. How do you get your message out? How do you get somebody excited about this message? It's an age-old problem."

Strapped for cash but still want to support the causes you care about? Consider these strategies that won't strain your wallet:

1. Give your time instead. If you can't write a check or feel guilty about donating a small amount, spend a Saturday sorting donations at a food pantry or cleaning up your local park. The 2012 Bank of America Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy reports a 3 percent decline in the rate of giving from wealthy households between 2009 and 2011 but a 10 percent uptick in the rate of volunteering by wealthy individuals.

2. Donate airline miles or credit-card rewards. Instead of (or in addition to) donating money, you can typically donate unused airline miles or credit-card rewards to charity. Airline miles are generally not tax-deductible unless you purchased the miles—rather than accruing them from air travel—but this strategy enables you to keep your other miles active.

3. Use online shopping portals. If you're ordering holiday gifts online, consider using a charity shopping portal such as or GoodShop, which donate a portion of each purchase to the charity of your choice at no cost to the consumer. "People want to have a holiday on the holidays," says iGive founder Robert Grosshandler. "As more and more folks do a significant portion of their holiday shopping online, iGive is a natural beneficiary of that, and by extension, the charities are the beneficiaries of that."

4. Ask for donations in lieu of gifts. Instead of asking friends and relatives for an iPhone 5 or a panini press, encourage them to give to charity. Websites like allow you to create a charity gift registry, but some have fees attached, so check the fine print as donating directly may be more efficient.

[Read: The Most Commonly Overlooked Tax Deductions]

5. Track your donations for tax time. For 2012 taxes, monetary and in-kind donations are deductible if you itemize and give to qualified organizations, so keep track of receipts and review the IRS's guidelines if you're unsure.