How to find time to volunteer even if you’re really busy

Maybe we’d have fewer incidents like the bus driver abuse we saw last week if more families made volunteering a regular part of their week.

But we know: you’re busy.

And yet, we bet the 64.3 million Americans who rolled up their sleeves last year and volunteered their smarts, brawn, and/or empathy to benefit others in their local, regional or national communities were busy too. The total value of the time they gave: roughly $170 billion. Although that figure is big, and slightly higher than the previous year, it still means that 73.2% of Americans are sitting on the volunteer sidelines. The number one reason given for not volunteering: “I’m too busy.”

Consider this: the absolute busiest segment of the population (working moms) actually has the highest volunteer rate. In fact, statistics from the American Time Use Survey conducted by the US Bureau of Labor show that people with less leisure time actually do more volunteering on the whole. So if you’re already busy – that’s great news – it means you probably are an excellent candidate for volunteer work.

If you do want to volunteer but are struggling to find a way to fit it into your manic days, consider these five tips for organizing your time so that you can give back.

1. Create volunteering benchmarks for yourself.

Intentions without clear milestones usually don’t amount to much. Rather than continuing to live with a fuzzy desire to volunteer more, set clear number for yourself that you can measure and use to hold yourself accountable. For example, you might want to volunteer 1% of your working hours, which equates to roughly 4 days per year if you work full time. Once you decide on a goal, track your progress against it. If you do, we’ll bet you make the shift from want-to-be-volunteer to a card-carrying member of the volunteer tribe.

2. Make a list of volunteer activities that do not require a commitment.

When you find yourself with a free day, volunteer. If you have already researched organizations that can use your help without requiring long commitments or advanced notice, all you have to do is show up.

3. Pre-book volunteer days that correspond with “free” days, like Columbus Day and MLK Day.

You know you, and if you have school-aged children, your kids are going to have those days off. Plan now to volunteer locally on those days, whether it’s lining up a soup kitchen to help out in or

4. Consider micro-volunteering opportunities you can do online. has created a platform that enables really busy people, like you, to volunteer in a way that fits into busy schedules. Large tasks are broken up into small parts, so you can complete the task in whatever time you have available, often right from your own laptop or smart phone. The tasks are typically small enough to fit into those random moments that are otherwise wasted, like when you’re waiting in line or watching your child’s soccer practice.

5. Ask your company about their volunteer policy.

Many companies do give their employees time to volunteer during the workday. And that’s not just limited to large corporations. At Buttoned Up, even we encourage our team to donate at least one paid day of work per quarter to volunteer efforts. You will never know unless you ask.

How about you – are you a regular volunteer or is it something you wish you could find the time for? Do you find the time to give back even though you are busy? If so, what would you recommend others do?