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Volunteering - Giving Money or Giving Time?
We are All Change Agents
Most Americans are busy working, raising a family, providing for their aging parents, or simply trying to keep their heads above water, yet the estimated number of volunteers reached its highest level in five years, as 64.3 million Americans volunteered, an increase of 1.5 million from 2010, so clearly, many people are trying to do something about problems in America.
The National Philanthropic Trust gathers statistics on volunteering and their estimates are below:
- A majority of Americans assisted their neighbors in some way and more than a third actively participated in a civic, religious, or school group.
- Americans overwhelmingly volunteered in schools or with other youth organizations, working to advance the lives of young people.
- Nearly three out of five volunteers aged 25-54 are parents to children who are under 18. These parents volunteered well above the national average, focusing on helping fill local needs while also serving as role models—showing their children that community involvement is a critical choice and habit that can improve lives.
Money and Manual Labor: Both Have Value
I Gave Money
Giving money is great; no one is going to deny that; but there are those who cannot simply write a check to their favorite charity or incorrectly believe that their small donation will not help. A widely-held perception is that corporations and foundations are the biggest sources to tap for grants and donations.
The reality is that four out of five or 80 percent of philanthropic dollars are contributed by individuals and bequests. That rises to 88 percent if you include family foundation giving.
I Don't Have the Financial Resources to Provide Money
Many people do not have discretionary monies today, but they still want to make an impact on a charity. Look at how much your volunteer time equates to the monetary gain for the organization.
Volunteering Increases the Monetary Value
Additional reference for how much volunteering helps people and organizations is found at The National Philanthropic Trust for Volunteering (Individuals):
The estimated dollar value of volunteer time is $20.85 per hour for 2009
With an estimated contribution of 8.1 billion donated hours of service in 2009, volunteer time is worth the equivalent of approximately $169 billion
Hopefully you see how valuable your volunteer hours are to an organization.
What Do Volunteers Do?
But you’re still not sure of how to go about volunteering or even if an organization has a need for your skill. There are web sites that can walk you through the rationales, reasons, and opportunities to use your talents and time to help others.
Let’s look at the top four national volunteer activities:
- Fundraising: 26.6%
- Food collection or distribution: 23.5%
- General Labor and Transportation: 20.5%
- Tutoring or Teaching: 19.0%
Charities know that people give to the cause, but they also realize that people give to people. Remember that charity that you support but could only give them $25?
How might that donation be increased if you did fundraising with friends, associates and family for your charity? You could easily see your small donation increase with each person you called.
That’s the power of people giving to people.
I've Got Stuff - Maybe Someone Else Can Use It
Make a commitment to clean out your pantry or cabinets once every three months.
What looked like a good bargain on spaghetti sauce is still in your pantry because your family just didn't like it. What can you do with it? Donate it.
Increase the size of your personal donation by putting a notice in your Community Home Owners Association newsletter, put a sign up in the break room, or send an email to let people know that you are collecting canned goods for charity.
Let everyone know when their extra canned goods can be dropped off at your address and increase the size of the donation.
Again, people make the difference.
How is My Skill Important?
Each person has a skill or talent or expertise in a certain field. Like to garden, add numbers, or make spread sheets? Volunteering at Adult Learning Centers, or becoming a reading coach at a local elementary school can help give adults and children alike a sense that they are cared about, respected and valued.
Each person can make a difference in the life of another. Never underestimate what your volunteer involvement can mean.
"I feel that we all must live, so that when we are gone, everyone will miss the work we did, but someone has learned by watching us, how to take up the banner and go forward. " - Submitted by Debby Rainey, Site Manager, Meals-On-Wheels, Tennessee
Retired Doesn’t Mean You Forgot What You Know - It May Mean You Finally Have the Time to Volunteer
Senior Corps was conceived during the Kennedy administration.
It now connects individuals over 55 with people and organizations that will use their talents, skills or expertise to mentor and coach those most in need of their particular contribution.
Volunteering to babysit so someone can attend a class to get their high school equivalency or watching the children of a recovering addict or alcoholic so they can go to a recovery supportive meeting would help you help them.
- Contact your local library and see if they need people to read to young children.
- Do you have an adult learning center in your area? What skills do they need to teach people to improve their lives? You may just have that skill and the time to teach.
- Are there schools or organizations that help people with tutoring? Do they need volunteers?
- Does the local animal shelter have adoption days at pet stores; do they need volunteers?
- Does the local food bank need people to stock their shelves?
Volunteering and Giving Are Not Just Seasonal
We all remember others when the need is prominent on the news – a devastating tornado, hurricane, or flood, or we see the shiny red kettles during the holidays, but the needs of people and organizations are on-going even without the catastrophe or the holiday giving spirit being ignited in us.
- Saw in the paper where there is a 5 K run for a charity you support? Try volunteering to man a water station, even if you can’t run the race.
- Know of a bake sale for the local elementary school, but you don’t have children there? Bake a cake anyway.
- Passionate about people getting out and voting? Ask about local restrictions and if you can, set up an early morning coffee stand to encourage people to stand in line in the cold.
Volunteering in the Community Helps all the Citizens
I live near a lake that always needs people to clean debris from the shoreline.
Several times a year, there are boy scouts, girl scouts, and other groups helping to clean. Going and cleaning when I have some time is just part of what I can do as a concerned person, and I haven’t been on the water in years.
Look around for opportunities like this in your area, and I’m sure you’ll find some section that needs sprucing up, cleaning up, or painted.
Working with a pre-screened and pre-qualified homeowner, Habitat builds a home using volunteer labor and donated materials. To keep this ongoing, Habitat Restores sell unused construction materials as well as donated materials. These are retail outlets, open to the public.
Habitat sponsors groups on college campuses to foster the idea of helping. These students take their school break and build a home rather than spend it on the beach. In 2011, more than 14, 000 volunteers participated in the Collegiate Challenge.
Since 1989, more than 196,000 students have participated in Collegiate Challenge and have donated more than $19,400,000 to Habitat for Humanity affiliates.
How Are You Helping?
Do You Voluneteer or Give Money?
Money, Time, and Effort – All are Part of Volunteering – Which Will You Give?
I would encourage you to find 2 hours per month to volunteer.
Find a cause or an organization designed to change the issues that you are passionate about.
- The elderly
- Green or environmental issues
- Those who cannot read
- The neglected
- Substance abuse recovery
- Victim's rights
- AIDS/HIV Awareness
- Something as simple as he neighbor with the broken leg who can’t mow their grass
Look around, call around, and see if there is not a special need for your skills. You will benefit from this exchange as well. You will know that you have supported, encouraged and helped people at a time when they most needed it to make their lives better.
National Volunteer Week - Updates
There were many examples of people all around the country participating in National Volunteer Week, the second week in April.
Unfortunately, there is not just one month in a year when people and organizations need volunteers. The need is always there.
Gratitude for the Donations and Encouragement
At a woman’s recovery home I ran for more than 20 years, the Hall County Master Gardeners donated several days of planting, pruning, and general sprucing up to our lawn.
We would not have been able to afford the plants, shrubs and trees that they donated and the women loved the bench so they could sit and admire the tranquil setting.
But frankly it was so much more than the donation.
Our Volunteers Helped Us Feel Important and Valued
They donated their time, energy and effort to improve the lives of female drug addicts and alcoholics. These acts of kindness and encouragement helped us believe that the changes we were making in our lives had value to others.
When I ran into one at the store the other day, two years after the garden project, she mentioned to me that she knew in helping the women, she was helping herself be a better person.
Local and State Opportunities
There are many organizations in Hall County, GA where I live, that desperately need volunteers, and our local paper, The Gainesville Times lists many volunteer opportunities.
For those living in Georgia, there is a state site, called Volunteer Match.
When I last looked, there were 846 opportunities for individuals to help service organization, individuals, and causes.
And in the end, you as a volunteer will be changed as well as those you help, and that makes everyone an Agent of Change.