Think about some of your life goals. If you’re a teen, you may want to get into a good college, earn a degree, and live in a community where people care about each other. If you’re a parent, you hope for all of those things and more. If you’re a kid, you are just excited to learn, have fun, and help other people.
Enter volunteering. Whatever goals you have in life, volunteering can help you gang up your goals into one package. Learn about the world? Check. Find a college major or career? Check. Develop healthy relationships? Check. Build caring communities? Check. Volunteering can open doors to so many possibilities.
But with our busy schedules, how do we fit in volunteering?
Read on to find five tips for bringing volunteering into your life no matter your age, your interests, or your busy schedule.
Ask yourself some questions.
What do you care about? What do you want to learn about? What is a cause that you often read about, talk about, or watch on TV?
If you have children (possibly a whole network of friends with children too), brainstorm together about problems they would like to solve. It’s a great way to activate their creativity and critical thinking skills. It may be a big problem, but think about how you can break it down into manageable tasks.
Then check out volunteer opportunities through Activate Good. You can filter the search by clicking Supervised Children or use the keyword search, children and youth. Don’t see anything listed? Contact us and we can connect you to a local nonprofit that works on that cause.
Volunteer as a family.
Combine family time with volunteer time. What other free activity allows you to have fun with your family while learning and doing good for others? Buck society’s message that fun must cost money. Your kids will be even more excited and confident with family members volunteering alongside them.
Let kids have a say in choosing the volunteer project. For young kids, choose projects where they can see the fruits of their labor quickly. Have a toddler? Check out the Wildflower Watering Club. Do you have elementary-aged children crazy about animals and horses? Check out the CORRAL Riding Academy, Horses for Hope or the Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge. For teens, let their interests and talents lead the way. Have a teen with a passion for reading? Volunteer as a tutor for The Helps Education Fund. Or take part in a variety of service projects through the 4-H Sparks in Progress
For all kids, search for opportunities that allow them to learn, have fun, and comfortably stretch them out of their comfort zone.
After volunteering, have a discussion with your family. Reflect on what you did, what you learned, and why it was important. Does it spark any new volunteering ideas?
Bring the volunteering to you.
Don’t have time to go anywhere? With a little planning, you can bring the volunteering to your home, school, and even your workplace. The Arc of the Triangle and Activate Good have projects you can do from home. You can even host an exchange student.
Encourage your child’s school to consider volunteering field trips or school-based volunteering. Raleigh City Farm hosts groups of supervised kids on their urban farm. Kids too busy with test prep? Host a “hygiene drive” for low-income students through Soar Outreach.
If your employer sponsors volunteer days, why not ask to get kids involved? Or if your employer holds an annual picnic, why not change it to a volunteering day for employees and their families or add a volunteering component?
Integrate it into your everyday life.
Look around your community to identify needs or problems. Are there elderly neighbors who need help with yard work or grocery shopping? Do you have used toys and clothes gathering dust that could be donated? Why not buy a can of food for a local food drive during your weekly shopping trip? Small efforts can add up to a big change.
Know that you’re making a difference.
Celebrate the work you’ve done. Whether your kids volunteer as a family, at school, or on their own, give them a chance to talk about what they’ve accomplished.
For young kids, draw a picture of the volunteering experience. Make it into a comic strip to show where they started and how they helped people in the end. For teens, use volunteering opportunities to bring college essays to life. You can even explore college majors and career options as you volunteer for different causes.
When you encourage your kids to volunteer today, you create a generation of future volunteers. According to Tanisha Smith, the national director of Volunteers of America, “Two-thirds of youths who volunteer become active adults who volunteer.” That should give us all hope for the future.