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It’s not just the cash that counts.

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. – Sir Winston Churchill

In this difficult economy, many Floridians who used to make generous donations to non-profit organizations have had to cut back on their charitable giving. For a lot of us, our good intentions have had to take a back seat to buying groceries and paying bills, especially if a family member is unemployed or we are struggling with debts.

Yet we still want to help. We know that there are thousands of families with needs greater than ours. We feel a strong commitment to help others, whether because of religious beliefs or a spirit of community . . . or both.

What can we do?

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Who volunteers? People like you!

  • 77.4 million Americans volunteer, contributing 6.9 billion hours, estimated economic value $167 billion.
  • Areas of volunteerism included (1) religious 32%, (2) sports/hobbies/cultural activities 25.7%, (3) education 29.2%) (4) civic/political/professional 6.2%, (5) public safety 6%, (6) Hospital/health 6%, (7) Environmental 5%.
  • Highest form of participation is fundraising (36%), followed by collecting or serving food (34%), collecting/distributing clothing or good (27%), and mentoring youth (26%).
  • Utah was at the top of the list for active volunteerism, Florida was last among the states.  FL stats: 3.87 million volunteers (22.8% of residents) contributed 340.7 million hours, worth $8.2 billion. 23.6% “do something positive for neighborhood,” 19.2% participate in local organizations, 43.2% donate $25 or more to charities.
  • Volunteer rate for women is 28%, men 22%.
  • 35- to-54-year-olds were most likely to volunteer (29%).  Next highest is teenagers (26%); many schools give students academic credit for community service, and some require it.  Lowest level of volunteerism is among 20-24 year-olds (18%).
  • Parents of children under 18 remain more likely to volunteer (31%) than persons without children (23%).
  • 72% of volunteers are involved with either one or two organizations; people with higher levels of education tend to volunteer for multiple organizations.
  • 88% of employers believe that effective engagement in programs that promote volunteerism helps attract and retain employees.

To get started, indulge your passion . . . and follow your heart.

tttv_3Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is there one cause that is especially meaningful to me? Do I shed tears for animals that need rescuing, am I driven to feed the hungry, do I yearn to work with young children? Has there been a hurricane or other disaster in  my area where people need help?
  • What kind of organization would I enjoy working with? A chapter of a national group with a highly professional operation . . . or a local startup that’s a “show in the barn” not quite ready for Broadway?
  • What kind of volunteer schedule would work best for me? Do I want a once-a-week assignment, a regular monthly task, or a special project? Statistics indicate that many Americans would volunteer for short-term tasks, and more and more non-profit organizations are willing to accommodate them.
  • What skills do I have that could transfer to a non-profit group’s needs?
    • I’m a social person who loves working with people on the front line.
    • I’m a computer wizard who can whip any database into shape.
    • I’m a student eligible to earn credit for community service hours.
    • I like staying behind the scenes, helping in the office or staffing a booth.
    • I’m a crackerjack event organizer – just point me to a fundraiser.
    • I want to volunteer from my home, or from my smartphone when I have downtime.
    • I’m not sure how I can help . . . but I’m ready to explore the possibilities!

Volunteers don’t get paid . . . not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.

tttv_3You may not realize there is another way to contribute generously to charities and causes, using your time and talent as currency instead of money. More than 80% of non-profit organizations use volunteers – to make up for budget shortfalls, and to fill important jobs ranging from event planning to office support to construction work or direct constituent service.

These organizations welcome volunteers who can type and file, write press releases, keep the books, build houses, handle data entry, care for animals, research the issues, relate to computer software, talk with the public, provide daycare . . . the list is nearly endless. Somewhere in South Florida, there is a non-profit organization clamoring for a volunteer with exactly your skills!

Volunteerism is an exchange . . . your skills in exchange for a variety of tangible and intangible rewards.

If you’re asking, “What’s in it for me?” don’t feel guilty.  Think of volunteerism as an exchange. Some of the rewards of volunteering are tangible opportunities:

  • To make a genuine, measurable difference in someone’s life;
  • To make new friends, be part of a team, and expand your network;
  • To polish existing skills and learn new ones that could advance your career;
  • To explore new interests and even discover hidden talents;
  • To relax, enjoy yourself, and have fun.

Still other rewards are more intangible, emotional benefits:

  • Feeling needed and useful;
  • Demonstrating your commitment to the community;
  • The satisfaction of a job well done;
  • Challenging yourself with something new;
  • Escaping the pressure of your day-to-day job;
  • Standing up to be counted for a cause in which you believe.

If you think one person can’t make a difference, think again.

History is full of examples where one person changed the course of events or turned around the lives of others in need. Whether a renowned leader like Martin Luther King or an anonymous volunteer extending a helping hand, everyone has the power to make a difference. But not everyone uses it.

Some people are content with just wishing the world were a better place. Fortunately, others like you are willing to step up and make the difference happen.

If you are ready to harness your own power of one, click below to learn about non-profit organizations that are looking for volunteers like you. Then make the volunteer connection that will make a difference in someone’s life . . . and yours.

Good News About Volunteering

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