If you're looking for a way to support an important cause, giving money isn't the only way to get involved. While charitable organizations always appreciate financial contributions, you can also help worthwhile causes by donating your time and talent. There are many opportunities to help with deserving causes in every community. Explore ten important causes to consider getting involved with, along with some specific ideas for places to donate your time.
1. Working With Children
If you enjoy working with children, consider volunteering at a library or children's museum in your local community. Other volunteer opportunities that provide ways to assist children include church youth groups, daycare programs for children from low-income families, and other similar organizations. You may also want to consider serving as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America or becoming a scout troop leader. These can also be rewarding volunteer activities for adults who want to provide leadership and direction for youngsters.
2. Improving Literacy
Would you like to donate your time by providing educational assistance to people who need help learning to read? If you'd like to work with grown-ups, consider getting in touch with an adult literacy program in your community to offer your assistance. Visit the National Literacy Directory website to find these types of programs in your area. If you'd prefer helping young people build strong reading skills, consider donating your time to tutor or read to children at a local school or community-based after-school program such as the ones offered by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
3. Assisting Senior Citizens
Would you like to provide assistance to older adults who need companionship or care? There are plenty of volunteer opportunities that involve helping elderly individuals. Senior centers, nursing homes, and other organizations that provide services to older adults are great places to donate your time if you want to help people in this population. If you like to drive or prepare food and have free time during the day, consider becoming a Meals on Wheels volunteer. You may also find it rewarding to share your arts and crafts talents with senior groups, participate in activities with nursing home residents, or simply spend time with them.
4. Supporting Healthcare Causes
With so many nonprofit organizations focused on finding cures for serious illnesses, there is a great need for volunteers who are willing to help raise money to support their efforts. There are many ways to get involved, including organizing and promoting special event fundraisers, participating in walk-a-thons or other events, or even helping solicit capital campaign donations. For example, you could participate in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life or get involved with a March of Dimes fundraiser.
5. Protecting the Environment
If environmental protection is an issue that matters to you, consider volunteering with a nonprofit association focused on protecting natural resources. Most communities have active groups focused on protecting the local environment, such as Mobile Baykeeper in Alabama. Find a similar organization in your area by searching for a local group on the Waterkeeper Alliance website. You can also volunteer with a local Sierra Club chapter or volunteer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
6. Registering People to Vote
Voting is the foundation of democracy, so donating your time to help get people registered to vote is a great way to contribute to your community. When you participate in this kind of grassroots community involvement, you can help ensure that all constituents have an opportunity to play a role in selecting the government officials who represent their districts. There are a number of not-for-profit organizations that seek to increase voter registration. Consider signing up to help groups like When We All Vote or Rock the Vote with voter registration drives in your area.
7. Feeding Hungry Families
Food insecurity is a huge problem around the world. It's estimated that 38 million people in the United States alone experience food insecurity. Worldwide, more than 690 million people don't have enough to eat. Hunger is a huge problem, but you can help in your local community by volunteering with organizations that focus on getting food to people who are in need. Consider volunteering with a Feeding America food bank or Salvation Army food pantry in your area, or get involved with a church food pantry. You could even organize your own food drive to gather and distribute donations to people who do not otherwise have sufficient access to food.
8. Helping the Homeless
Homelessness is a significant problem in America. Most cities and many smaller communities operate shelters and outreach services that focus on providing assistance to people who are homeless, so there are many ways you can make a difference. The Salvation Army operates homeless shelters and soup kitchens in many communities. Enter your zip code on their website to find a shelter near you, then reach out and ask how you can help. The National Coalition for the Homeless publishes a directory of shelters and other resources on their website, so that is a good place to search for local programs that focus on helping people who are homeless.
9. Volunteering in a Hospital
Many hospitals actively seek volunteers to provide assistance with various non-clinical tasks. For example, the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston utilizes volunteers to help with a wide variety of tasks ranging from administrative duties to pet therapy. If you're in Memphis, Tennessee, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital is a great place to volunteer. Check the websites of hospitals in your area to see which ones have volunteer programs. Donating time to a hospital tends to be more structured than many other volunteer opportunities. Expect to be required to fill out an application and go through a screening process prior to being approved to volunteer.
10. Helping Families With Sick Children
If you like the idea of helping families with children who are seriously ill, consider volunteering with Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). Among other services, RMHC operates Ronald McDonald House locations near major children's hospitals in the U.S., and in more than 64 countries worldwide. These facilities provide a home away from home for families who have had to travel long distances to seek care for their gravely ill children. Volunteers play an important role in these homes, doing things like providing companionship, running errands, and cooking meals for families who are facing extraordinarily difficult and stressful situations. Reach out to the RHMC chapter in your area to find out how you can get involved.
Finding Meaningful Ways to Donate Your Time
The list above provides many great options for places that rely on volunteers to meet important community needs, but there are many other worthwhile causes to support, like raising awareness about hair donations to make wigs for children with cancer, and places to volunteer performing hands-on activities. For additional volunteer work ideas, or to locate an organization in your community that could use your help, visit VolunteerMatch.org. The key is to find a volunteer opportunity that will allow you to support an important cause or help people who are in need.
Rewards and Benefits of Volunteerism
There are many reasons to volunteer to share your time and talents with individuals, causes, or organizations that do good work in your community and on a larger scale. Volunteering can be a very rewarding experience. Once you get started, you'll find that the rewards of your generosity are much greater than what you give up by sharing your time. There's no better time than the present to donate your time to help others or support a cause you believe in. The sooner you get started, the faster you can begin making a difference.