I love volunteering and giving back—and I wish I had more time to do so. The feeling of fulfillment through acts of service and giving back cannot be matched. Even the busiest of us can find a bit of time to help others, even if it's just 1-4 hours a month! Here are some tips of how and where to get started.
The first step is finding something that you're passionate about and discovering what kind of service you want to offer. If you're going to give your time, be sure that it is with an organization whose mission aligns with your passions. If you're an animal lover, volunteer at a local animal shelter. If you are passionate about reproductive rights, get connected with Planned Parenthood. If you've been looking for ways to help the homeless population, find a local shelter or organization. Any of these organizations need all the help they can get, so if you're tight on free time, think about any specific skills you may have that could be beneficial to their cause. Skills such copyediting, photography, cooking, graphic design, assisting, can be of great value to these organizations.
Next, schedule it! We're all living our lives and it can get crazy sometimes. Schedule a date and time with the volunteer coordinator and get it down on your calendar. Not only does this help the organization maintain a full staff, but it'll also hold you accountable. Treat your time volunteering like it is your job. Be on time, don't flake, and be fully present! Most organizations are up and running because of volunteers . . . they depend on people like you who volunteer to do this work!
Lastly, make connections and meet people. It's always intimidating starting somewhere new, and can be even more intimidating if you're working with a vulnerable population. We're more committed when we're held accountable— so meet people that you connect with and facilitate appropriate friendships. Non-profit organizations are a great place to meet like-minded people.
Where to start?!
I've volunteered at quite a few places and I've loved all of them. Here are a few nationwide organizations and sources are always in need:
WWF, is a great source to look upon for volunteering abroad. They are a Young Adult volunteer and internship programme with a primary focus on conservation across the globe.
The Humane Society, for all of the animal lovers. They have a variety of ways to volunteer from fostering, helping with cleaning, to even just walking dogs and cuddling kittens.
Caritas, for those passionate about ending homelessness with compassion. Caritas is an incredible organization that is a one stop shop for the homeless population. They provide a case manager for each of their clients and go through an efficient process to help people get back on their feet. Volunteer opportunities include help with legal work, case management, soup kitchen, fundraising, etc. Caritas is also a great place for group volunteering for your workplace or organization.
Ronald McDonald House is a great organization that offers shelter for loved ones who are hospitalized for extended periods of time, because those hotel bills really add up.
Food Pantries is a website where you can locate local food drives and soup kitchens to get involved in. These organizations need help year round, especially during holidays, in raising money, organizing food drives, and handing out meals.
I also recommend looking into these sites to find an organization that's perfect for you.
Have minimal time to spare?
If you live in an area that has a limited amount of options to donate your time, or you are unable to physically volunteer, start a Facebook fundraiser! Thanks to innovations such as gofundme and Facebook Fundraisers, it's now easier than ever to raise money. You no longer have to put on a huge event in order to raise a ton of money from your community. A simple Facebook post with a description explaining your cause and a donate button gets the word out from the comfort of your home. The best part about gofundme and Facebook Fundraisers is when your friends and family help support your cause with a simple share, you benefit by reaching people from all over the world who could potentially help. Please note that gofundme has a processing fee of 2.9% plus $0.30 per donation and Facebook Fundraisers has a processing fee of 2.6% and charges a flat $0.30 per donation for all personal fundraisers and fundraisers for certain non-profits (only some non-profits do not have these fees), so if you can donate directly to the organization of your choice, you should.
It's easy to give back! You don't need a special occasion or a lot of planning to do so. Whether you raise a few dollars to donate to a charity on Facebook, donate a logo design to a local organization, or travel across the world to help save the elephants, it all helps make a difference.