I hope you are inspired to volunteer, it truly is among the most rewarding things you can do with your time. For me, serving others centers me and helps me to adjust my focus on the world around me. For you, it might open your eyes, lift a depression or lead to one of the most memorable moments of your life. There’s only one way to find out…so, what are you waiting for?
There are so many ways we can all give back and I truly believe there is a way for every man, woman and child to get involved. But, before you jump in, give a little thought to how much time you want to commit to — can you do something weekly, monthly, once a year? Do you want an ongoing commitment or do you want a one-off opportunity? There are needs for all of these types of volunteers, so don’t worry! My recommendation, start slow and go from there — it’s better to over-deliver on your commitment than to under-deliver.
Here are some helpful ideas that you can use to book your service, it’s the approach I took to book my 30 Days of Service, so I know it works.
1. Apply your passion. Think about what you like to do or what issues you care deeply about. Let that guide you as you look for service projects. If you apply your passion(s) to your service, your experience is likely to be even more rewarding. Once you identify what makes you tick, search your phone book or look online for local organizations that work in that area and start calling. For me, I love to cook and share food with others, so whenever I get a chance to do something involving food, I jump at the chance. Watch Day Three to see a woman who inspired me years ago when I helped prepare and serve her a meal.
2. Talk to your family and friends. Do you know if your family and friends volunteer? I didn’t either, at least not to the degree that I learned about when I started asking. Many of us don’t talk about the service we do (really, I don’t normally announce it to people that I volunteer), but if you ask there’s a good chance you’ll learn of some great ways to give back in your community. Watch Day Thirteen to learn about the Beauty Bus Foundation, an organization introduced to me by my friend Kathy when I asked for ideas for my 30 Days of Service.
3. See what your religious organization supports. If you are part of an organized religion, talk to your leader to get some ideas on how you can help them serve the community. It might be volunteering in the church or temple, but it could also be helping them with their service projects. The first volunteer project I recall doing as a kid was organized by my church and to this day I find it an effective way to get connected with those who can benefit from my gift of time. Watch Day Twenty to see what I did with my church, Hollywood United Methodist Church.
4. Hit the web. Like so many things these days, the answer can often be found online. There are a multitude of online tools to help you find volunteer opportunities in your community. For me, two of the most beneficial sites for finding opportunities in Los Angeles are Volunteer Los Angeles and LA Works. For those of you in other cities, check out these sites: Hands On Network, All For Good or United We Serve. Watch Days Three, Ten, Fourteen and Twenty Seven to see some of the days I booked online.
5. Volunteer from home. There is a new trend in volunteering, it’s called mircrovolunteering and it’s great! It is essentially volunteering right from the comfort of your own home or anywhere else you have an Internet connection. The projects are found online and typically take under two hours to complete. It’s everything from giving non-profits advice on marketing plans to developing logos and so much more. Watch Day One to see how a microvolunteering project I found through Volunteer Los Angeles saved a near disastrous start to my 30 Days of Service. For those of you not in Los Angeles, check out Sparked.
6. Apply your vocation. What do you do for a living? Chances are no matter what it is, you can apply your specialized skills to help others. It’s called skills-based volunteering and it’s on the rise. This type of “pro-bono” work was once considered only for those in certain professional services industries (e.g., lawyers, marketers, consultants), but now more and more companies and individuals are applying their broad skills to help organizations around the country. I recommend asking your company if they are aware of any opportunities while also keeping in mind your professional skills as you evaluate other opportunities. Watch Day Sixteen to find out about my day of skills-based volunteering.