There is something profoundly gratifying about giving back to your community. Paying forward the opportunity and blessings in your life to others is an excellent way of providing service. Human society has always had a trend of a few people who go out of their way to help others, even at the cost of their own life.
Leaders like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi understood the importance of the people, and they forfeited their lives in service of their country.
The trend of volunteering time and effort to worthy causes is still running strong in the human race. While you may not have to go to the extremes of Mandela and Gandhi, there is still plenty you can do to give back to your community.
People that want to volunteer their time to a charity or non-profit organization are people looking to expand their experience. Volunteering your time does not necessarily mean that you ever come in contact with other people. For example, if you’re a web designer, you could offer to build your favorite charity a website for free.
When we give back to others, there’s a primal part of our mind that feels tremendous gratification for helping someone achieve their dreams and goals. Knowing that you were a part of turning around a person’s life, or changing public opinion on a topic due to your activities and volunteering efforts, is incredibly rewarding.
However, most people that volunteer doesn’t do it for the kudos, and they don’t do it to add their volunteering to their resume. People that volunteer their time are genuinely interested in helping others, and the world needs more people like you.
What are the Advantages of Volunteering?
Volunteering your time has plenty of benefits, for your mental health, your finances, and your career.
Helping people or organizations achieve their goals makes you part of a team. You may develop new relationships with other people of a similar mindset as you. Knowing that what you are doing is benefiting others or a higher purpose, fulfills a primal need in all of us, making us feel productive and part of something bigger than ourselves.
Volunteering provides a purpose to the lives of many people. Some individuals may work in a cubicle in the city as an accounting clerk, and never meet their clients or understand their business. If this sounds like your day job, then volunteering on the weekends gives you a new stimulus that shows you the value of your contribution to a person’s life or an organization.
There are even tax breaks available for volunteering. While working for a charity or helping others is not about financial gain, there’s no reason why the government can’t help you out for your efforts. If you’re spending money on hotel rooms, gas, car hire, and food during your volunteer work, then all of those expenses are tax deductible. Check with your organization to see if they have a classification as a 501(c)(3) charity. Additionally, you’ll also need documentation from your charity for any official expense over $250.
Volunteering also looks great on your resume. While no-one volunteers for a charity with the thought of advancing their career, there’s no reason why you can’t let employers know about your efforts in the community.
Ideas on Where to Volunteer
There are hundreds of thousands of charities all over the globe. Finding one organization or person to invest your time and effort into may seem somewhat overwhelming when you look at the big picture.
When deciding on an organization or cause to join, it’s best to choose something that resonates with your beliefs, values, and passions in life. For example, if you’re an animal lover, then help out at your local animal shelter. If you want to help out the homeless, sign up at a soup kitchen.
There are no set guidelines for giving back; all you need to do is show up and be willing to work. Here are a few examples of causes, initiatives, and charities worthy of your time.
Red Cross and Homeless Shelters
Official figures state that Los Angeles has over 28,000 homeless people. The homeless epidemic across the United States is growing at exponential rates, with many of the people living on the street living hard lives in a daily battle for food and shelter.
The rate of drug addiction and crime among homeless communities is high, with many people experiencing assaults and muggings for the little money they have. Organizations like the Red Cross, have spent decades helping the homeless, and they are always short of volunteers.
Working with the Red Cross puts you on the frontline of the homeless epidemic scourging the United States, and you’ll have the opportunity to work in a variety of different fields, from assisting nurses with treating homeless patients or handing out blankets and clothing at shelters.
Every evening, thousands of dedicated volunteers run soup kitchens in every State across the U.S. Thousands of people would starve if it were not for the generous actions of these selfless workers who spend their evenings preparing and distributing meals to the less fortunate.
If you start at a soup kitchen, the managers will most likely put you in the serving line to assist the homeless with loading their plates. This job gives you a frontline look at what people living in poverty go through daily. The gratitude and thanks you’ll receive from some of the most desperate people may bring you to tears.
Like every other sector serving the homeless community, soup kitchens always looking for more volunteers.
Animal Rescue Shelters
Are you an animal lover? Then head down to your local animal shelter and speak to a manager about what you can do to help. Animal shelters are temporary homes for dogs, cats, and other pets that end up on the street for a variety of reasons.
Many animal shelters are drastically underfunded, and you can assist them by offering your time. You may have to take up tasks like bathing, feeding, and exercising the animals, along with helping vets with medical examinations.
There are more than 6.5-million animals entering shelters across the United States every year, and most of them end up euthanized because the shelter can’t find the funds to maintain the operating costs. If you’re a whiz at fundraising, then shelters all across the U.S could benefit from your skills.
If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, then consider volunteering at your local branch of the Parks Board. The recent wildfires in California were a national emergency requiring a coordinated effort on behalf of thousands of relief workers.
The Parks Board is always looking for new volunteers to assist in managing these emergencies, and they also require staff to help prevent these sort of disasters in the future.
Working with the Parks Board isn’t only about cleaning up litter, it allows you to work on some of the most important historical sites in America, such as the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site in New York, or Alcatraz Island, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California.
Beach Clean Ups
Do you live near the beach? Why not volunteer for your next beach cleanup? Every day., millions of tons of trash enter the world’s oceans from the underdeveloped nations in Africa and Asia. Scientists estimate that by 2014, there will be more plastic particles than fish in the sea. This fact is an environmental disaster that threatens the aquatic ecosystem in every ocean around the world.
By volunteering for beach cleanups, you help prevent plastic and trash from assimilating in the local environment, where it kills plants and wildlife. Most beach cleanups only last a few hours, and it’s a chance to get out in the fresh air and meet other people in your area that are also conservationists.
Habitat for Humanity
This non-profit has plenty of locally-targeted volunteer opportunities. Habit for Humanity helps underprivileged Americans with building repair and maintenance. So, if you’re a plumber or electrician by trade, then there are plenty of jobs available if you are willing to lend a hand.
Working with Habitat for Humanity also allows you to host workshops teaching comminutes about skills like carpentry, plumbing, and electrical maintenance.
Local Libraries and Museums
With the advent of the internet, and having information on tap at your fingertips, local libraries are shuttering their doors across the country due to funding issues. As a result, many libraries are in desperate need of volunteers to help them run the institution.
If you have a soft spot for books, and you spent your formative years studying in a library, then you may have an affinity for becoming a librarian for a few hours a week to help out. Museums are similar to libraries, and they are always on the lookout for volunteers as well.
Libraries and museums are vital for the social health of our nation. Volunteering at a library or museum is gratifying in the sense that you are helping to preserve the history and culture of the country, as we move into a digital age.
Are you passionate about politics? Why not consider lending your time to your local candidate? Politicians get elected on the back of the hard work done by the members of their campaign. If you believe that politics play a significant role in our society, then you can dedicate your time to answering phones, distributing emails, and fundraising activities associated with a campaign office.
Politicians run the country, and if you believe the country needs a new direction or a fresh approach to local and international policy, then back your favorite candidate with not only your vote but your time as well.
Joining a political campaign can open a world of opportunities to you as well. You’ll brush shoulders with some of the political elite, and you never know when someone might present you with the chance of a lifetime.
Your local YMCA is another non-profit looking for volunteers. Many young people rely on the YMCA to give them productive ways to spend their time, whether it’s competing in sports, coaching or helping the less-fortunate with literacy courses. The YMCA plays a valuable role in society, and without it, the inner-city youth of the country would be worse off, with fewer opportunities in life.
Walk into your local “Y” and introduce yourself to the manager. The chances are that they’ve been waiting for volunteers, and they have plenty of tasks available for you. Helping the youth of the country puts you on the frontlines of improving the future leaders and adults of our nation.
Many of the youngsters in YMCA classes look up to their teachers and instructors as role models, and you have the chance to shape their perspective on life into a positive worldview.
There are nearly 50-million seniors in the United States, accounting for over 14-percent of the United States population. With the baby boomer generation moving further into retirement, the number of seniors in the country is expected to double over the next two decades.
Most seniors can take care of themselves until they reach their late seventies when mobility becomes an issue, and they lack the energy to remain productive. As a result, many seniors move into assisted care, whether funded privately or by the government.
Many seniors don’t have anyone in their lives, making them predisposed to loneliness and depression. Volunteering at a retirement home is a great way to give back to the generation that built America into the most powerful and prosperous nation in the world.
You can volunteer to read to seniors, help with their care, run the kitchen, or help with physical activities and games evenings.
Wrapping Up – Someone Out There Needs You Right Now
Dedicating your time to a worthy charity or non-profit places you in a category of people that care about the planet, their environment, and its people. Giving your time selflessly to people and causes, without asking for reward, teaches you valuable lessons about yourself and others.