Volunteering: How to decide who to help and how you can make a difference.
It's difficult to image having the time to volunteer. Today, our lives are so busy it's nearly impossible for us to squeeze in a few of the most important things like preparing a healthy meal or exercising, but volunteering doesn't have to be something only the retired have time for or require resources that only the wealthy have access to.
Deciding who to volunteer for and how to offer help is the first step in building a mutually beneficial relationship.
GOOD: Get Your Volunteer On
All too often we abandon volunteerism because we have conjured up the idea that in order to volunteer we must give that which we do not have. That is an unfortunate concept that has disallowed so many to help and so many others from experiencing one of life's greatest gifts- the knowledge that YOU make a difference.
Certainly, donating hours of your time or giving a $10,000 check to your favorite charity is a wonderfiul offering, but so few of us are able to do that. We all, however, can offer a little 'service' on occasion.
Want to become a volunteer but feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of organizations to choose from? This book by Arthur Blaustein, can help you uncover opportunities that fit your life style.
Identify your passion(s).
Volunteering should be a positive experience for everyone. Finding the right opportunity for you is just as important as the service you'll provide.
If you are doing something that you enjoy, you will remain committed and you will find gratification.
Identify your passion
The Volunteer Experience
Once you have uncovered your passion and are thinking about who you can help, it's important to recognize how you can help.
Do I want to give time, money or do I want to help in another way
Decide how much time you can devote
Decide what you're willing to do for the cause
Know your skills and talents
Research the organizations your considering
Contact the groups that interest you and talk with the other volunteers
Don't overlook these opportunities to make a difference:
Do you love to attend the theatre? Perhaps assisting with the local theatre group would be a good choice for you. Often such groups operate on a shoe-string budget. Why not offer to hand out brochures for a weekend performance?
Enjoy visiting the museum? What about becoming a tour guide.
Youth organizations, sports teams and after-school programs often are in need of an extra set of hands. Whether you have coaching talent or you're willing to help collect the equipment, it's a good way to be involved.
Many people have helped Habitat for Humanity, don't discount the help you can provide at local parks or at historical restorations. Years ago, there was a need for volunteers to help construct a playground area at our local park.
Would you enjoy spending more time at your church or synagogue? Maybe they need a little help keeping up with the landscape or pruning the rose bushes.
Enjoy reading? Why not volunteer to read a book at your local library. Very often there are reading times for youny children.
Here are a few more ideas:
Help by visiting an elderly home and play a few matches of chess
Help run errands for your neighbor that has just had surgery
Help lay flowers on behalf of your loval veterans' hospital
Spend a day working at a food kitchen
Organize a bake sale and give the proceeds to your local school
Spend the day at the local SPCA or zoo cleaning up after the animals
Drop off gently used clothes at a high school
Give your suits to the women's shelter
Donate your books to the library
I like to keep a folder in my office with informational packets or news clippings concerning groups that intrigue me. My hope is that when I can offer to help, I just need to rummage through the folder for the right opportunity.
Here are a few that I currently have on file:
Hope in Bloom: This is a group in Massachusetts (although you could start a similar group where ever you are) that plants flowers or vegetable gardens for those who have had breast cancer.
Alex's Lemonade Stand: Organize a lemonade stand and help childhood cancer.
Heifer International: If you are interested in helping people all over the world to help themselves, Heifer gives you a chance to do just that by donating animals.
Operation Gratitude: Set up a postcard station at your next BBQ and have your friends write a thank you.
American Red Cross: It can be this simple..give blood. We forget that so many people need healthy blood everyday.
It is wise to learn about the charities you are most interested in before you commit to helping them. The American Institute of Philanthropy is a good go-to source for educating yourself on the organizations you want to become involved with. Also known as CharityWatch, this site will help navigate the sometimes murky waters of giving. When I am able, I choose to give money to those groups that distribute the most of my gift to the one's in need. It's a pet peeve of mine to donate money to groups who take 90% of that money and use it for 'operations' while the remainder is given towards the cause.
CharityWatch is a nonprofit charity watchdog organization that helps donors make informed giving decisions.
Excepting your limitations
Surely, there are things that we do not care to do. There is no shame in that, but it is important to recognize it. As much as I love animals, I'm limited in what I am willing and able to help with. The simple thought of an abused, starving animal brings me to instant tears. I would not enjoy the experience, nor would I be of help to the organization. Think about your limitations and consider them carefully.
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