- Colin Mclain
How to Participate During National Volunteer Month
Since 1974, the US has celebrated National Volunteer Month every April. There are hundreds of organizations that rely on the generosity of thousands of people, and not just monetary donations. I'm talking about the donation of time. According to The Urban Institute, Americans volunteer at a rate of 8.8 billion hours per year. That's incredible! These are people that are filling in the gaps in necessary parts of their communities.
So, how can you participate? How can you volunteer? The first thing you have to ask yourself is what are you passionate about? What do you care about? Is there a problem you'd like to see fixed? Once you've identified that, start the research to find any organization that is trying to tackle the problem. According to the Minnesota Council of Non-profits, there are nearly 7000 non-profit organizations in Minnesota, so chances are, you'll find one that you'll mesh with.
That's the wonderful thing about being able to volunteer. There are so many ways to help out your community. Some projects needs strong helpers in building, renovating, moving, or hauling. Other projects rely more on office work, crunching numbers, or computer services. There is a need for whatever you can provide.
How to find your volunteer opportunity
Fortunately, a lot of the heavy lifting has been done for you. There are several good databases where you can search for volunteer opportunities from the comfort of your own couch. Here are a few:
VolunteerMatch.org - This online database is searchable via location and will be able to help you find an opportunity in your area. A quick search for the Brainerd Lakes area, included calls for tutoring, assisting in the massive vaccination effort taking place, and environmental sustainability promotion. What a gamut!
www.justserve.org - This online volunteer database can search via project and can be fine tuned to just about any form of volunteering opportunity. Search by homelessness and you'll find dozens of local ways to help, whether through building homeless kits or providing meals.
DoSomething.org - If you're still looking for volunteer opportunities that can be done from your own home, Do Something has a nice list of places that are taking virtual volunteers. From translation services for refugees to transcribing centuries old books, you'll find something that is sure to fit your qualifications.
United Way: Get Connected - Have you already started your search for ways to help your community but have found that there isn't a readymade fit at the time? Problem solved with the United Way: Get Connected website. There you can search out your favorite organizations and then be notified when they have any volunteer opportunities that fit your skill set. This is a great way to keep updated when your favorite organization starts making waves.
Local Volunteer Initiatives
Volunteering is a great way to add some oomph to your resume or, if you're still searching for your path in life, it can certainly help point you in the right direction. However, it's not really about what you get in return for volunteering.
And while these databases are wonderful entry points to finding where you can help, don't stop there. The small organizations and projects probably aren't going to have their names included in these larger websites. The best bet is to ask around and see where you can locally volunteer. Check in with your coworkers, neighbors, or local service organizations. You're sure to find a place that will accept any and all help.
Celebrate Your Volunteers
National Volunteer Month isn't just a reminder to help out your community, it's also a reminder to give thanks to all the people who volunteer in your community. With those billions of volunteer hours donated every year in America, there's so much to be celebrated, and not just during April.