Finding Room to Volunteer

This summer, don’t just roll up your pants, roll up your sleeves…and volunteer! Adding your efforts, no matter how small or big, to the work of others enriches everybody.

If you think you’re too busy, or can’t imagine where you’d find the energy, read on and get inspired.

Sarah on “Find a Cause Close to Your Heart”

“My life is unbelievably hectic. For the past five years, I’ve been juggling two startups, both full-time jobs in their own right, and a growing family. I sadly consider myself lucky if I get to bed before 1am. Even exercise and volunteering, which never failed to recharge my batteries in the past, have fallen by the wayside. But in the early spring of 2007, a very dear friend and colleague of mine passed away after a long, courageous battle with cancer. He was just 26. As we, his friends and family, reflected on the incredible difference he made in others’ lives during his short stay on earth, we decided to follow his lead and set up a foundation in his honor. Although I am just as busy as I was before his passing, I somehow do find the time to volunteer with Alan’s Legacy. Even in my hectic life, there is enough time to attend a quarterly meeting, plan the occasional fundraiser, and attend events. I find the time because I can’t imagine being too busy to honor Alan. It is true: if you find a cause close to your heart, you’ll move mountains to be a part of it.”

Alicia on “Sampling Charities”

“Like Sarah – and so many other women I know – I struggled to find the time to volunteer. For me, the main barrier was that I knew I didn’t have the time to get involved in a charity in a big way, but yet, I wanted whatever I did to be meaningful. Luckily, I found a group of like-minded professional women in Los Angeles who had started a charity called ‘Tea & Empathy.’ The purpose of the charity is to showcase a variety of different causes to busy types are looking for a way to give back, but haven’t yet found ‘their cause’. The group meets once a month at someone’s house. Everybody who attends pays $25 at the door, and then one charity is given the floor for the hour. All of the money raised at the tea goes to the charity presenting (it can often be as much as $1000). It’s a great way to get exposure to charities you never would have come across and see if it’s something with which you want to get more deeply involved. Start a group like it in your area, and invite your family and friends.”

Here are a few ideas designed to help you roll up your sleeves and get volunteering.

1. Get Focused

With so many causes beckoning for your attention and efforts, figuring out where and how to volunteer can be a little overwhelming. The most effective way to overcome any ‘volunteer inertia’ is to focus on answering the question: what causes do I care about and believe in most? If you know that, the rest of the details, like figuring out what activities you have time for, and matching your skill set to volunteer opportunities will be pretty straightforward.

2. Make Volunteering a Family Affair

Volunteering together as a family is an incredible bonding experience. This summer check out to find volunteer opportunities in your area that your whole family can be a part of. Or, if you have the spare time and energy, try a project such as being a Puppy Raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind. Projects like this one involve the whole family as you care and train the dog in basic behaviors for one year. See for more information.

3. One-Off’s

Try volunteering for “one day events” 3 times a year. Even if that’s all the time you can give, it will be a huge help to organizers and the group. Organizations that have terrific one-day volunteer programs are local churches, local senior centers, the Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.