Volunteering Around the World
Don’t feel bad if you haven’t marked December 10 on your calendar for the “Taste for Volunteering” fundraiser.
The online event to assist children with special needs isn’t happening in the Triangle or even in North Carolina. Its organizer is HandsOn Tokyo, which promotes volunteerism in Japan.
A group in Panama is organizing volunteers to respond to the COVID19 pandemic. Organizations from Romania to Brazil and Indonesia are encouraging volunteerism, too. [See our accompanying article below about how HandsOn Bogotá is promoting a culture of volunteerism in Colombia.]
If all of this global activity reminds you of a certain group here in the Triangle, that’s not a coincidence. Activate Good is part of a worldwide volunteer network with these and other organizations. (Here’s a list of some of its current volunteer opportunities.)
Points of Light
“The Points of Light Global Network thrives on collaboration,” says Meg Moloney, the network’s chief operating officer. “Being able to share ideas with experts in 200 cities across 37 countries is a huge benefit. Leaders in our network regularly share their own experiences and learnings on a wide array of programs and initiatives.”
Formed in 2007 through a merger with the Hands On Network, the Points of Light Foundation is an international nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Atlanta. Its name comes from a phrase famously used by President George H. W. Bush to encourage people to get involved in their communities.
Activate Good joined the network in 2013. Other North Carolina members include Hands On Charlotte and the Volunteer Center of the Triad. There are also volunteer groups in Winston-Salem, Wilmington and Asheville.
“We wanted to be a part of a network of other organizations where we could learn from each other. We gather new ideas for initiatives (and share our own). This helps us learn best practices in volunteer mobilization,” says Amber Smith, Activate Good’s executive director.
Most of all, the network provides Activate Good with valuable perspective on its own activities and challenges.
Examples of Volunteering Around the World during COVID-19
Just as Activate Good has teamed up with local partners to help North Carolina families cope with the pandemic, so has Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa launched an emergency fund to expand the capacity of South African nonprofits during the crisis.
In Italy, MilanoAltruista is now highlighting how volunteers can serve remotely from their homes. In Paris, the website for Benenova is featuring volunteers wearing masks. HandsOn Hong Kong’s website shows a masked woman and the words “Volunteer Safety Requirements.” Empact in Singapore features a laptop and the message “Virtual Volunteering: The new norm in this pandemic.”
Activate Good works with the Durham Community Food Pantry, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle in Raleigh, and others to provide food to families in need. In November, it organized several activities for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Volunteer organizations in other countries have taken similar steps. In the Philippines, for instance, Hands On Manila organized “Servathon 2020” to recruit volunteers interested in food insecurity and related issues.
Promoting Volunteering Around the World
Activate Good is in good company when it comes to seeking ways to encourage people and organizations to put their ideals into action. The Nadácia Pontis volunteer organization in Slovakia recently held an online workshop to highlight ideas for promoting volunteerism. Other organizations in the global network are helping nonprofits be impactful by using technology, strategic planning and social media.
Around the world, network members are also grappling with changes in how and why people choose to volunteer. Workplace teams, a faith groups and individuals are struggling.
“A resistance towards change to more virtual, micro and informal volunteer roles will be a challenge for organizations who do not adapt to the needs of volunteers,” says Stuart Garland. He is the training and programmes manager for Volunteer Ireland.
Diverse Populations and Volunteering
Activate Good’s efforts to serve North Carolina’s growing Latinx population highlight another challenge many volunteer organizations share across the globe. How do they assist people with diverse languages and traditions? Shalabh Sahai, co-founder and director of iVolunteer, notes that India “has 22 official languages, none of which is spoken or understood by everyone. … The charities, which need to work closely with the communities, are usually focused in small pockets and regions.” His organization, India’s largest volunteer group, works with more than 600 nonprofit partners across the country. They tackle everything from beach clean-ups to technology consulting.
Communities around the world have different views on volunteerism but learn from each other.
(In response to an inquiry for this article, HandsOn Bogotá in Colombia sent a fascinating response, reprinted below, saying “we have a lot to learn from countries like the U.S., where a significant sample of the population has experienced volunteering at least once in their lifetime, and many do it naturally as part of their daily lives.”)
Volunteering in the United States
Our country’s long tradition dates back to before the American Revolution. A 2018 report from the Do Good Institute at the University of Maryland served as a reminder that this tradition is fragile and constantly evolving. The report’s analysis of data collected by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that “fewer Americans are engaging in their community by volunteering and giving than in any time in the last two decades.”
A 2018 Volunteering in America report, on the other hand, found that “more Americans than ever are volunteering.” It said “77.34 million adults (30.3 percent) volunteered through an organization last year. Altogether, Americans volunteered nearly 6.9 billion hours. That time is worth an estimated $167 billion in economic value.” Millions are supporting friends and family (43.1 percent) and doing favors for their neighbors (51.4 percent). This data suggests that many are engaged in acts of ‘informal volunteering.’
Volunteering in the Triangle
The Raleigh metro area ranked ninth nationally with a 38.0 percent volunteer rate, according to these statistics. North Carolina was 19th among states with a 35.1 percent rate.
Regardless of the numbers, the students, employees, families and others who serve with Activate Good are demonstrating with their hearts and enthusiasm how volunteerism can thrive even in tumultuous times. As it looks ahead to a new year, Activate Good will continue touching the lives of people across our region.
It will also remain part of the larger movement activating good around the world. Through the Global Points of Life Network and more broadly, volunteers are getting good done. As the network’s Maloney puts it: “A global presence allows us to equip organizations with the knowledge needed to meet the pressing needs of their local community. It helps individual volunteers make the biggest impact possible.”