Despite the decline in volunteering in America over the last decade, a new President and a severely challenged economy have once again changed both the public's perception of and their reasons to volunteer. As our economy has taken a nosedive, the good news is that the American family is readjusting its values and seeking ways to meaningfully share its time, money, goods, and services.
Reasons to Volunteer as a Family
Many more families are turning to volunteering together as a way to give back to the community, and to re-establish family bonds. The decline in the economy has begun to affect children's perceptions of home and of feeling safe. Volunteering is helping your neighbors and your community, but it is also alleviating many children's secret fears that their family too might be vulnerable to breaking up and falling apart. Families are finding that even the simplest of service, from visiting a senior home as a family to building homes for those still suffering from Katrina, is helping them show their children that they still have enough, and enough left over to share.
The Top Reasons to Volunteer as a Family
- It shows your children that even during unsettling times, there is a way to be pro-active and help solve a national problem on a local level
- It protects you and your children's self-esteem and feelings of self worth
- It teaches new skills in a safe and encouraging setting for everyone in the family
- It builds or re-establishes inner family communication and purpose as a family, while alleviating fears of helplessness and despair
- It promotes fun time with a family as well as puts things in perspective - i.e. There is always someone whose needs are greater and whose situation is worse
- It allows children to mature as they communicate with others who are helping, and with whom they are helping
Before deciding to become a volunteer family take some basic steps such as those outlined below.
- Call a family meeting time and approach the subject with honesty and with a low-key style
- Be polite and be prepared to hear groans, moans, and even negative reactions to the idea Be prepared to be equally pleasantly surprised when you remain firm to the idea to see how their attitude might change during the discussion
- Find a cause or an organization that you are all enthusiastic about (or at least agreeable towards)
- Start small - two to four hours of time a month is a good beginning point. As your family's interest grows, you can all decide later, individually how much more time you want to give
- Immediately carve out time for volunteering in the family's schedule. Put up the family calendar for the month and block out time right then. That way the entire family is on the same page immediately
- Within 24 hours of the family meeting, call the organization or download information off the web about the organization/cause to share with the family. If you are volunteering locally, arrange a time for the family to visit the volunteer site
Reasons for an Individual to Volunteer
While some of the same reasons apply to volunteering as an individual and as a family, there are some added benefits you may not have thought about:
- You gain personal insight and knowledge, not only of a cause or organization, but of yourself as well
- You get an opportunity to gain a new set of skills; this is especially valuable if you are currently unemployed
- You learn about time management and prioritizing your responsibilities
- You boost your visibility in your community; this is important, again, if you are looking for a job
- It is a scientific fact that doing good causes you to feel good by releasing good hormones to the body and the brain
Reasons for a Business Owner to Volunteer
When you talk about networking in your community, there is no better way for a business person to boost his visibility than to volunteer. The benefits are real and tangible.
- You gain valuable free advertising for you and your business by getting mentioned in an organization's newsletters, annual reports, and at special events
- You gain a closer connection to your community by volunteering and meeting other business and community contacts
- You also gain valuable tax advantages through the donation of your surplus business goods and even services
- You improve your employees' morale and re-connect them with the community as well
So while it is important to make monetary charitable donations to whatever you decide to support, it is important, too, to realize that what you bring to the table as a family, or as an individual, or as a business owner, is just as important. It immediately becomes apparent that once you start volunteering that you do get paid - in a different coin, that's true - but you do get paid!