Social media can be a huge boon for non-profits, NGOs and causes. Many are finding ways to let folks help those in need with small actions and donations. Here are nine ways you can make a difference in people’s lives with just a few minutes of your time or a few dollars from your PayPal account.

Of course, if you want to spend more than five minutes or $25, you could do a lot more good for folks in need. But this is a great way to begin cultivating a personal attitude of philanthropy in your spare time and with your spare cash.

1. Free Rice, Cost: $0, Time: 5 Minutes

Play a simple game of multi-choice questions, and help the World Food Programme fight hunger — and perhaps improve your own knowledge in subjects such as art, vocabulary, history and math. Since October 2007, this initiative has generated more than 77 billion grains of rice (around 20 million servings) for hungry people around the world. The rice is paid for by advertisers, and the project is supported by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

2. Samasource, Cost: $25, Time: 0 Minutes

What many women, youth and refugees need all around the world is a dignified way to earn money and support themselves. What Samasource lets you do is donate as little as $25 to help find work for and train folks to do Internet- and computer-based work. Donations can be made through PayPal, as well.

Here’s a TEDx talk from Samasource founder Leila Chirayath Janah explaining how marginalized people can break through the “culture of handouts” and find real opportunity.

3. CauseWorld, Cost: $0, Time: 5 Minutes

Similar to Foursquare, this iPhone and Android location checkin app allows you to earn karma points, then donate those points to the charity of your choice, from climate change NGOs to hunger-fighting non-profits.

While you earn badges, rack up points and make donations, you can also choose to share your accomplishments with your other social networks. If you’re a location junkie who is passionate about stopping child abuse, supplying clean water or helping to fight cancer but short on time and funds, this might be the app for you. Funding is provided by Procter & Gamble, Citibank and Kraft Foods.

4. Vittana, Cost: $25, Time: 5 Minutes

If you care about higher education, this microlending site might be right up your alley. Vittana lets you find students in the developing world who are struggling to pay their college tuition. You can search by gender, by major and by the amount of money needed. Loans can be made in increments as small as $25 and can be made through PayPal.

5. The Extraordinaires, Cost $0, Time: 5 Minutes

This site proves you don’t have to have a lot of time, energy or money to do something extraordinary for your community or the wider world. It allows users to take microactions — simple things they can do in seconds from a computer or mobile phone — to help be part of a larger solution. For example, after the earthquake in Haiti, users were able to match photos of missing persons with photos of those who had actually survived the quake.

Users can choose from a variety of “missions” to tag or match images, do research or map something. From finding job leads for unemployed folks to mapping safe places for kids to play, The Extraordinaires is a world of opportunity for those who want to do good with few resources. There’s also an iPhone app available.

6. Kiva, Cost: $25, Time: 5 Minutes

By now, most of us are familiar with Kiva. This microlending organization lets users find an entrepreneur or group of entrepreneurs in a developing area and lend as little as $25 to support the growing business. Users can search for entrepreneurs by gender, type of business and geographic area.

Check out this PBS report on how Kiva’s brand of microfinance has impacted one community in Uganda:

7. Deki, Cost: $15, Time: 5 Minutes

Deki is similar to Kiva, but this UK-based site doesn’t collect any percentage of donations for its own operating costs, and its loan recipients are found in far fewer areas — right now, just the UK, Ghana and Nepal. Users choose a microloan recipient, the loan amount is forwarded to a field partner in the local currency (to mitigate the risk of financial loss due to currency fluctuation) and the loan is repaid over a 6- to 12-month period. The field partners are grassroots organizations already well-versed in mircofinance in their regions. Donations can be made in amounts as small as £10, or just over $15. Credits can be added to a Deki account via PayPal.

8. Give Work, Cost: $0, Time: 5 Minutes

This iPhone app helps increase the working wage of African refugees. Users virtually “help” a refugee with microwork tasks, earning points and increasing the quality of work. The points system equates to real-world help for working refugees.

According to research from Crowdflower, one of the app’s sponsoring organizations along with Samasource, five points in the app equates to a refugee being able to buy a tomato, a large banana or a small bunch of greens. Ten points means the refugee can afford to send a single SMS message; with 50 points, he or she could buy 10 sweet potatoes. This video explains more about the app and the program:

9. SocialVibe, Cost: $0, Time: 5 Minutes

This organization pairs brands with consumers and ad dollars with causes in a way that’s good for everyone involved. Brands create microaction-focused games and activities, and users complete them. Brands pay for this interaction by donating to a cause of the user’s choice, such as feeding the hungry or preventing suicide. Users get to spread the word, both about the charities and the brands. Everyone wins.

For more social media coverage, follow Mashable Social Media on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

More social media resources from Mashable:

5 Ways Non-Profits Can Increase Engagement With YouTube

4 Ways Non-Profits Can Use Google Buzz

The Science of Building Trust With Social Media

Why Sex-Ed Remains a Challenge for Social Media

How Twitter in the Classroom is Boosting Student Engagement

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ranplett

Tags: List, Lists,
microactions, microlending, social good, social media