Times are tough for all of us. But those charitable organizations that are trying to better the lives of those less fortunate than us are especially feeling the pinch.

Obviously, many people aren't feeling very comfortable about writing big checks to charity. Many are out of work, and everyone's concerned about the possibility of losing their jobs. And most of us who invest are staring at portfolios of stocks suddenly worth nearly half of what they were worth not so long ago. It's enough to make you cry, isn't it?

But it's worse for charities. Not only are they expecting less from individual donors, but they're also expecting less from corporations and foundations. Merrill Lynch (NYSE:MER), for example, has been a big giver -- but those days could be over, as the company was bought by Bank of America (NYSE:BAC). Other big givers have simply gone out of business entirely.

Meanwhile, many corporations just aren't big givers to begin with. Business Week recently pointed out the "chintzy"-ness of oil giants ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), whose annual donations (as measured by the percentage of their pretax net income) "are consistently below half the national average for businesses that make tax-deductible charitable contributions." [Praised were Target (NYSE:TGT) and General Mills (NYSE:GIS), among others, for giving more than 5% of pretax income.]

The folks at nonprofit information compiler GuideStar recently noted that the percentage of charities that have reported drops in donations between 2007 and 2008 has nearly doubled. Roughly half of the charities the organization surveyed said they get the majority of their income at the end of the year, and among them, half expect those donations to decrease.

What to do
Fortunately, you can help. Sure, you may be feeling a pinch. But remember that you probably still have a roof over your head. Remember that you've learned a fair amount about how to grow your money. Many others don't, and haven't. Check out the dire straits some people are in. Then consider giving a little more than you'd planned to.

I urge you to give a little to Foolanthropy, too. This year we're supporting DonorsChoose. I invite you to take a few minutes to learn more about it. I recently made my own first donation to it.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Bank of America is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.