Chances are that, like a lot of us, you’re feeling the financial squeeze. Maybe a few years ago you had more money than time, and it was easier to be generous when it came to charitable giving. Now it may be that you have more time than money, or maybe you don’t have much of either but you still want to help animals. The good news: You can!

While volunteering at an animal shelter or sanctuary is what most people think of when it comes to sharing their time, it’s not the only way to help. And since many shelters and sanctuaries require a commitment for volunteer training followed by a minimum of so many hours per month, you may not be able to help out in that way if your time is limited. But you can still help; here are four ways to do so that don’t require an ongoing commitment — you just do them when you can:

1. Help a Neighbor

If a friend, neighbor or relative is having difficulty caring for a pet because of advanced age or illness, offer to help out. Pets are extremely important to those who are cut off from social activities, and helping people keep their pets is a kindness to both pet and pet owner. What can you do? Pick up food or litter, or offer to take the pet to the veterinarian when needed. Many times, people who rely on others for assistance are reluctant to ask for more help on account of a pet. Get around this by asking your neighbor if she needs help.  After all, if you’re already going to the pet supply store or veterinarian, is it really that much trouble to pick up some extra supplies or stay for an additional appointment?

2. Start a Pet Food Pantry

You can expand the “help a neighbor” idea to people you don’t know by organizing donations of pet food. People who need help to feed their families need food for their pets too. Bring whatever skills you have into play here. If you’re good at fund-raising on a small scale, get others to chip in a little to raise cash for a big buy. If you’re good at cold-calling, ask businesses to donate pet food or supplies such as kitty litter. For help with distribution, work with area animal shelters or organizations that assist the homeless. Many people will use what little money they have to feed their pets before they feed themselves, so if you can get pets fed, you help people too.

3. Provide What Other Helpers Need

If you can’t help a shelter, rescue group or sanctuary on a regular basis, see if you can help on a short-term project. Many groups have fund-raisers throughout the year. They need volunteers to help with ticket sales, setup, concessions and cleanup. You can also help by finding out what your local shelter or rescue groups need in the way of services or supplies, and then calling to ask for donations. Shelters are in constant need not only of pet food, litter, old newspapers and towels, but also office and janitorial supplies and building materials. Get a wish list from your shelter and get to work!

4. Drive Rescue Pets to Their New Homes

Using the Internet or Petfinder to adopt a pet means families can look outside their city for that perfect pet, but it also means that pets often need a ride to their forever homes. Adoptable pets are moved all the time, from areas where there are fewer people (and so fewer homes for pets) to bigger cities with more people looking to adopt. These animals are moved in large numbers (such as when a hoarder or puppy mill is shut down) and individually, like when someone falls in love with a pet who just happens to be several states away. Many of these pets get where they need to be with the help of relays of volunteer drivers. Want to know more? The Sunbear Squad has a great page with information.

These suggestions, of course, just barely scratch the surface. What volunteer opportunities do you know about? We’d like to hear how you’re helping animals in your community!