Giving back—it is a concept that’s often easier said than done.

Great causes are everywhere, but the harsh economic climate during the past few years has forced many people—especially those already living on a shoestring budget—to put charitable donations at the bottom of their financial to-do list.

These challenging times bring some urgent questions to light: How does financial hardship affect those non-profits, school districts, individuals and companies whose very mission is to help others in need? Where do they turn when donors’ pockets are empty?

Despite a recent wave of public interest to support the non-profit community and greater efforts to build stronger, more effective non-profit organizations, the sector as a whole suffers from a perpetual case of the financial blues. According to The Philanthropy Journal, 60 percent of non-profits have three months or less of cash on hand, 10 percent have none and only 9 percent expected that 2011 would even help their clients.

As a result, a host of new opportunities have sprouted up that will help non-profits raise money to support their causes.

A handful of startups across the country are focused on helping struggling non-profits boost donations by capitalizing on a booming trend: the daily deal phenomenon.

Today’s infectious group-buying craze makes it easier than ever for consumers to save money while hitting hot spots or services around town at a discounted price. Groupon, now a household name to many, practically started a revolution.

But why not add a charitable twist and make the whole transaction more meaningful than saving a few bucks on a massage or a half-priced filet?

Meet Sharing Spree. Launched in January 2011, Sharing Spree combines a group-buying business model with a philanthropic goal. The mission was simple: help consumers save money, charities and schools boost donations and businesses get more new customers in their doors. How about that for a win-win-win?

Every day, Sharing Spree features a deal targeted specifically for women that offers 50 to 90 percent off at local restaurants, spas, hair and nail salons, shows, events, car detailing, wineries, personal service providers, photographers and countless other businesses in Portland, Ore., Nashville, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala.

Here is the part that really goes beyond a discounted haircut: In total, Sharing Spree donates between 10 to 15 percent of every deal to a local non-profit or school. Every day, the featured non-profit receives 10 percent of the proceeds of the daily deal. On top of that, buyers choose an organization from about 150 participating non-profits that receives 5 percent of every deal they buy. Every deal goes back to charity, every time—while buyers enjoy a sweet discount.

So far, Sharing Spree has donated more than $170,000 to non-profits and schools. So if indulging in a great deal just isn’t your thing—and let’s be honest, it probably is—then you can at least be satisfied knowing that each purchase you make is contributing to the greater good.

Rather than focusing only on the high-dollar, touristy-type businesses, Sharing Spree strives to drive business to the little guys—those lesser known names in the community. Beyond the charitable component, “going local” is the bread and butter of what Sharing Spree is all about: enjoying the unique perks a city has to offer.

One last thing to keep in mind: putting your dollar toward a non-profit not only enables it to meet today’s financial priorities, but provides the kind of support that will enable it to build strong organization tomorrow. It really is a gift that keeps on giving.

Sending some love back to nonprofits and local businesses is a way for everyone to win, especially in this economy where many families are pinching every penny. Why not enjoy life and give back at the same time?

Learn more about Sharing Spree today.

Author: Dana Free, director of non-profit relations for Sharing Spree