“Volunteering just isn’t for me because (Your excuse here).” I’ve heard it so many times. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 62.6 million Americans, or about 24.9 percent of those age 16 and up, volunteered their time for a good cause in fiscal year 2015. If you weren’t among them, you should be! Why? Because volunteering is for you! In this 3-part series of posts, I’ll show you why volunteering is important and how it can enrich your life (And the lives of others). Even if you feel you don’t have the time or expertise to contribute, or if you don’t know where to start! In the third and final installment of this series, we’ll address some common “buts” that prevent people from volunteering.
In the first post of this series, we looked at the impact of not-for-profit organizations on our economy. We also discussed the need for volunteers. In the second post, we reviewed some of the many ways you will benefit from becoming a volunteer.
A case of the “buts”
As with many things in life, there is always a “but.” A reason why not. A merciful excuse as to why we can’t. Volunteering transcends the “buts,” I promise. Let’s take a look at a few common ones:
But I don’t have time for volunteering
Guess what? Me neither! Volunteering doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. You don’t have to give up every Saturday, spend endless hours away from home, or sacrifice precious space in your schedule in order to have a positive impact as a volunteer. There are all kinds of volunteering opportunities that allow you to be flexible with your time, or just help out when you can.
Many not-for-profit organizations allow you to volunteer just a couple of hours per week or month. A regularly-scheduled volunteer shift provides consistency and predictability for your weekly or monthly agenda.
If a regular volunteering commitment won’t work for you, that’s ok! You can make a big difference by helping out with seasonal or one-time projects. Lots of organizations, such as soup kitchens or thrift stores, allow you to sign up for one-time-only volunteer opportunities. Here are a few other examples of great opportunities that don’t require a recurring commitment:
- Spring and fall cleanups
- Staffing at a special events, such as a 5k or school carnival
- Doing minor building maintenance or repairs
If you are great at planning, organizing, or getting things done, consider joining a committee. Committees accomplish an incredible variety of tasks behind the scenes. Therefore, they are usually flexible about when and where committee members can perform their work.
Another facet of my own volunteering is that I chair the silent auction committee at the organization where I volunteer. We meet just once per month, and work under long-term deadlines. I lead my team, find donations, and complete planning and administrative tasks whenever and wherever I have time. As a result, I can whip out my phone or laptop and work on my auction stuff during my lunch break, while waiting for an appointment, or during a sleepless night. Flexibility, my friends!
But I don’t have special knowledge or skills
Guess what? Doesn’t matter. Although some volunteer opportunities require specialized skills or knowledge, they are the exception to the rule. Most volunteer opportunities only require you to be willing and able to do the work.
Much as an employer would, almost all not-for-profits conduct some form of volunteer orientation and training. If there’s anything extra you need to know to do your job as a volunteer, they’ll fill you in. The most important thing as a volunteer is that you have able hands and a willing heart.
But I don’t know where to start volunteering
Great news – there are probably lots of opportunities close to home! Volunteering for your neighborhood school or HOA are great places to start. There are lots of benefits to volunteering for civic or neighborhood organizations. You will:
- Meet neighbors and other parents
- Discover the people who are considered pillars in your community
- Maybe have an opportunity to influence decisions that affect your home and family
There is also a multitude of other nonprofits within your greater community that could really use your help. Here are a few resources to help find opportunities that interest you:
First, Volunteer Match is a powerful resource for finding volunteer opportunities that align with your passions, skills, geographic area, and schedule. You can browse opportunities in your area by cause (Such as arts, education, or animals), search for keywords, and even find international or virtual volunteer positions.
Volunteer Match’s advanced search feature is especially impressive. You can tailor your search to find the best volunteering gigs for kids, teens, seniors, or groups. You can even do a skills match search to find organizations in need of your specialized knowledge or training.
Similar to Volunteer match, but less powerful, is The Corporation for National & Community Service. It allows you to search for volunteer opportunities in the U.S. It also features toolkits for creating your own service project across several areas of interest.
Finally, Charity Navigator is geared more toward potential donors looking for information on the viability of a particular organization. However, it can be a good resource for finding background information on larger not-for-profits that fit your interests.
What I’m saying is…
Volunteering is a great way to broaden your horizons and give back to your community. Don’t let the “buts” get in the way of giving back to your community through volunteering. It doesn’t take a big time commitment, special skills, or a foot in the door to start volunteering. Many opportunities offer flexibility, training, and are easy to find. Try dipping your toe in with a one-time project with family or friends. You’ll be surprised how much you get back from giving.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this 3-part series on why volunteering is for you. Truth be told, volunteering is for everyone! In conclusion, I hope I’ve shown you that:
- Not-for-profit organizations are a powerful force for good in our economy
- They need volunteers to achieve their goals
- There are a multitude of benefits to volunteering
- Anyone can volunteer, regardless of their time or skills
Just in case you missed them, here are the other 2 parts of this series:
You might also enjoy my post on finding your ideal volunteer opportunity!
Are you planning on volunteering? (Please say yes!!) Have you had any experiences as a volunteer? Share with me in the comments below!