As we approach the end of the year, we begin thinking of goals not met and resolutions not kept. Many of those have fallen by the wayside quickly, victims of a lack of discipline or ambition.
One area that tends to get a lot of attention is philanthropy. People naturally try to take advantage of tax deductions – hence the rush to donate stuff to Goodwill by Dec. 31 – but many others are sincerely interested in donating to worthy causes.
Giving, of course, has no set time frames or deadlines. There always are needy among us; we tend to think of philanthropy most often as we approach the holiday season. (And are reminded of it by the Salvation Army bell ringers in December.)
You’d like to give, or give more, but cannot. What can you do instead? Give of your time.
Non-profit organizations can always use an extra hand. Their needs vary, but chances are quite good that you fit in somewhere. Follow these suggestions, and put your knowledge and skills to work for others.
1. Decide how much time you have to volunteer. Is it one hour per week? Five hours? Remember to keep your priorities in order. While you may be excited to help out, you also have other responsibilities, at home and at work.
2. Choose the time(s) of day best for you. Are you a morning, afternoon, or evening person? Service clubs often meet for lunch or dinner, but sometimes for breakfast, as well. Some organizations hold meetings after work; others get together before 8:00 a.m. Determine when you’re available, because you should stick with it. (More on that in #4.)
3. Choose the organization. What interests appeal to you? Which would be difficult to support, for any reason? There are perhaps dozens of organizations in your area, so finding one or two that you are comfortable with should not be difficult. Not every organization or cause is a perfect fit for you, and vice versa.
I joined JDRF (www.jdrf.org) and Rotary (www.rotary.org). Everyone has unique interests and skills. Spend some time searching for that good match. Use the Web or Yellow Pages to find an organization of interest.
4. Get to know the organization(s) well. The Web has made your first step very easy. Review Web sites thoroughly for a good understanding of the organization.
Attend a couple meetings and listen carefully. Do you like how the meetings are run and feel comfortable with the personalities present? (Yes, something as specific as personality is important.) Is the organization headed in the direction you expected, and can you embrace its goals?
Along those lines, what are the commitments? What would be expected of you in the role(s) you are considering? Be honest with yourself and the organization. Don’t let initial enthusiasm blind you to reality.
If you can’t devote the time and energy that’s needed when it’s needed, bow out graciously. It’s better to make that decision early than to let the organization down later (or over-commit yourself).
5. Be flexible. Many events occur on the weekends and require that you get up early. But remind yourself that you’re helping the non-profit raise money for a worthy cause.
6. Dive in. Once you’ve made your selection(s), jump in with both feet. Make the most of your involvement by volunteering for committees, helping out with extra projects, and otherwise making good use of your skills. As the old saying goes, the more you put into something, the more you get out of it. Over time you will realize how glad you are that you joined. I have experienced a lot of satisfaction being involved; I’m sure you will, as well.
What volunteering have you done? What have you found offers the most satisfaction? Feel free to comment below. And if you enjoyed this column, could you do me a favor and share it with others? Thanks.
Image courtesy of stock.xchng.
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