Resolve to Give Back in 2014: 5 Tips for Volunteering from the Better Business Bureau

January 10, 2014

Donating your time to a charity is just as meaningful and important as deciding to make a cash donation. However, you want to be sure that the charity you’re considering is accountable and will use your time and talent wisely. If you’ve made giving back part of your New Year’s resolutions,the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends taking five steps to make sure your contribution makes an impact.

“In today’s tough economy, charities need more volunteers to help support their cause,” says Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois, Inc. “Although volunteering can be a rewarding experience, you want to be thoughtful and do your research when donating time, just as if you were donating money.”

Bernas said much of the work that charities perform is made possible because the volunteer numbers are steady.

TheBBB recommends taking the five steps to make sure your volunteer experiences are worthwhile:

  1. Identify your skills. Volunteering opportunities are available for any skill level. Consider what you’re good at and what services you’d be particularly well-equipped to provide. From stuffing envelopes to construction or even providing pro bono legal advice, you can find a good fit regardless of your education or talents. 
  1. Consider your passions.  Maximize your enthusiasm for volunteering by finding an issue that resonates with your own personal passions. If you’re a runner, consider a marathon fundraiser. If you like history, look for opportunities to help out at an archeological dig.  By identifying your passions, you’re more likely to stay engaged with the charity and be a more effective volunteer.
  1. Determine your availability.  Make a realistic estimate of how much time you’re willing to give. Maybe it’s just a weekend of picking up trash at a park, a week of building schools in a foreign country or maybe you’re willing to make a long-term commitment to tutoring someone to read. It’s better to volunteer the amount of time you can reasonably handle, rather than drop out in the middle of a longer commitment.
  1. Research the charity thoroughly. Just as you would before making a cash donation, research the charity fully before you volunteer to make sure the organization has a commitment to standards and accountability. You can view BBB Wise Giving Alliance evaluations on nationally-soliciting charities for free at
  1. Commit to stick with it.  Most volunteers don’t have long term goals with charities they work with. Even if your early attempts at volunteering weren’t a good fit, keep at it and look for new opportunities to give back. In a tough economy, charities need the support of volunteers more than ever.

For more advice on volunteering and to view charity evaluations on nationally-soliciting organizations, visit  



As a private,non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs developand issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.