Although time is a rare and precious commodity an increasing number of people are willing to put aside a few hours a month to help advance the mission of a worthy non-profit. Whether running a Marathon or ladling soup for the homeless, every organization in desperate need of free help will ask “Why do you want to volunteer?”
The cliche answer of “to give back” will prove wrong on so many levels once you’ve found your volunteer niche. Altruism ignites an endorphin rush that helps you bond with the clients of soup kitchens, nursing homes and animal shelters. You’ll find that the homeless have fascinating stories, the elderly can remember every detail of their favorite recipe and rescue dogs are irresistible.
Picking a worthy cause to champion is not as easy as you think. The well known and most respected organizations usually have a screening process and a waiting list. You may need to submit a resume and references before you are invited to an interview or orientation.
Many people consider volunteering around the holidays. However, Christmas and Thanksgiving may be the only time during the year when your favorite charity doesn’t need help. If you really want to make a difference on a holiday, consider Fourth of July, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and Halloween. Although Fourth of July is usually the only holiday I ever take off, it usually falls at a time of year when regular volunteers are on vacation. Also, there are fewer visitors at hospitals and nursing homes on 4th of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day. Spending part of Valentine’s day in a senior center will do your heart good. Halloween can be fun if you volunteer in the pediatric ward or community center. And if you’re an animal lover you’ll greatly appreciated at the local animal shelter.
If you are interested in working with a specific population, such as the homeless or the seriously ill, examine your motivation. If you just lost a loved one to cancer you may have an emotional reaction while working directly with the patients. The last thing anyone needs is a crying volunteer.
The homeless are interesting but not the most loquacious bunch. If you’re trying to make conversation keep it light. Talk about music and television. shows. Stay away from politics, horror movies and religion.
If you are considering a little community service start small. Look for an opportunity that has a one day commitment to start. If you don’t know where to start look up Volunteer Match. You can also enter volunteering into your search engine with the name of your city. You’ll be surprised at what comes up.