Donating your time to charity is just as meaningful as making a cash contribution. The right match can help you find friends, learn new skills, and even advance your career while at the same time providing valuable support in the community. The key to having a successful volunteer experience is knowing what your goals and interests are. Here are some ideas on how to make the most of your time during National Volunteer Week.
It is important to think of donating time similarly to donating money. Charities are highly dependent on volunteers for their time and efforts.
Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois recommends taking these five steps to make sure your volunteer experiences are worthwhile:
- 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 for your education and talents.
- 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’re interested in helping out your cities youth, look for opportunities to volunteer your time as a mentor. By identifying your passions, you're more likely to stay engaged with the charity and be a more effective volunteer.
- Determine your availability. Make a realistic estimate of how much time you're willing and able 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. Volunteer opportunities are available all over the world. Take this as an opportunity to travel, and do some good while you’re at it! While you may be eager to get involved, avoid overcommitting. It's better to volunteer the amount of time you can reasonably handle, rather than drop out in the middle of a longer commitment.
- 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 local charity evaluations with BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance at give.org. For each of our 20 standards, BBB marks if a standard is met or not, helping you to make wise decisions about where you decide to offer your time.
Chicago Cares is just one of the trusted organizations that offers volunteer opportunities in the area. With their opportunity calendar, you can easily find dates, times and places where volunteers are needed.
- 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.
You don’t have to look far for opportunities to volunteer! But, you should always look for symbols of trust before deciding where to give your free time. Take advantage of the information Better Business Bureau provides to ensure you’re making the right decision by searching bbb.org/ask.