In contemplating where to start this blog on community, I decided to explain why I volunteer.
My top three reasons include: to help others less fortunate than I am, to be the example that I want to see in this world, and to develop personally and professionally. We all know that our children do what we do. Since it is my desire to raise compassionate, civic minded, giving, faithful, lifelong learners, I am setting an example and forming a habit by intentionally investing in my community through multiple volunteer efforts. I choose to volunteer in ways that are meaningful and doable for me, and I’m intentional about volunteering in front of, and sometimes with, my children. We are not all in a position to financially support an organization as a major donor, however, we can still have a major impact on causes that are important to us if we give our time, raise awareness, and provide other donations. Over the course of the month, we’ll share several local, national and international volunteer opportunities and encourage your family to find at least one that you will support. If you are anything like me, there will be more than one area that pulls at your heart strings and is a good fit for your family. Just participate in moderation. You may opt to support one financially, another with your time and yet another by bringing awareness to their cause. It all helps!
Are you ready to get started in your community?
Start with your why. Would you like to focus on something larger than yourself? Would you like to learn new skills, travel, or support a cause that personally impacts you or our family? Does education, homelessness, or the environment concern you? Do you feel guilty about the number of people struggling with various issues right now? Do you just want to help? I encourage you to come up with your top three reasons and post them somewhere the entire family can see. That way when volunteering gets hard (and it will), becomes inconvenient, or conflicts with a last-minute opportunity that presents itself, you can remind yourself of why you are doing what you are doing.
Decide which causes you care about. There are many worthy causes and you have to find what speaks to you during this time of your life. Consider your other obligations, ages of your children and current financial situation. Don’t forget, we are still in a pandemic. If adding too your plate in this capacity is too much for you right now, it is okay to wait until life is more settled. There will always be a cause to support.
Consider what skills and knowledge you collectively offer. Do you have a child who has read EVERYTHING about dogs and aspires to be a veterinarian? An animal shelter could be a great place to invest your time and resources. Do you have tech-savvy teens? Maybe you want to offer up your services to an organization that needs to spread the word about an upcoming event or services. Are you a great cook? Many organizations have opportunities for you to feed their residents. Hotel Hope and The First 72+ are two that come to mind where you can cook from the comfort of your own home.
Realistically decide how often you can volunteer. Pull out your calendar for March and identify days that are available. Look for opportunities on the weekends if that works best for you. However, if you homeschool and want to make Mondays your community day - feel free to do so. Ultimately, it is important not to overcommit. It is much better to under commit and over deliver than the other way around. Likewise, you do not want to burn out after the first month because you took on too many responsibilities.
Decide if you want to volunteer in your community, nationally or internationally. Monthly, we will highlight three organizations that would benefit from your support. We will always look for those with at least 80% of donations going to direct services, not administrative costs. If you have any you would like to suggest, email us their information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have no idea where to begin, you can use a volunteer site to help you identify opportunities based on your interest. There are several to choose from. Here are two that seem helpful. Volunteer Match provides a mix of volunteer opportunities on a local, national and international level. Indicate the city that you would like to volunteer in and review the opportunities. This could also be great for a ‘working’ vacation. What an opportunity to add one service day to your annual vacation! Similarly, Idealist matches individuals to opportunities, but their website offers quite a few more options. Once you select your city, you can specify the experience you are looking for by type, skill or date. Additionally, you can find jobs, internships or a variety of other opportunities.
Some volunteer positions require training or background checks or have age minimums while others do not. Consider what you are looking for during this phase of your life. Maybe you’ll bring meals to an organization, participate in park clean up days, or volunteer at your local library. Clearly, many volunteer opportunities are limited due to the pandemic, but some still exist. There are many ways to volunteer safely.
After each service day, have a discussion with your child on the experience, impact, insights and desire to continue volunteering in that capacity with that organization or selecting a new one to try. If you have multiple children, you may opt to rotate weekly or monthly between the desires of each child. I highly recommend doing it as an entire family for the community building aspect of volunteering and memories you are creating. We can all laugh about how hard it was to set up a pumpkin patch or how much we enjoyed creating blessing bags or serving a meal.
Consider donating unused, good condition clothes or household items. Many families have been purging during the pandemic. There are many ways to bless others with your good condition and unused items. Several Trade/Barter/Free groups have popped up on Social media platforms. There are local and national organizations that you can drop off to or schedule a pickup from. Vietnam Veterans of America is my go to when our schedule is too crazy for a drop-off donation. Their website is super easy to navigate, and donating could not be simpler. You indicate what you are donating and how many boxes or bags, then simply leave the merchandise on your porch. Between 8-5 on your scheduled day - voila! It’s gone! Remember to take pictures of your donations for our virtual event. At the end of the month, we'll release a video of our impact.
If you are in a position to give back financially instead of with your time, MANY organizations would appreciate that. Create a budget of how much you can donate on a monthly basis and decide as a family which organizations to support. You could all research and present one organization at a family meeting and select one or several each month. Maybe there is an equal distribution - they all receive 25%. Maybe you have a primary each month that receives half and the others split the rest. There are so many great ways to turn this into a learning experience that can be just as fulfilling as giving your time.
ENJOY! Giving back has so many benefits to our health, quality of life and community. Do not overlook the many blessings that come to those who are generous with their time, talents and treasure.