Making a Difference: Volunteering

A simple way to make a difference in a hands-on kind of way is to volunteer. And the good news is that no matter what’s important to you, you can find an opportunity to help that meets your priorities. Many groups and organizations use volunteers to get things done and meet their goals, from political groups to health organizations.

Volunteer opportunities will vary widely. Some groups may need help organizing an event. Some may need help with phone calls or paperwork. Others may need help with physical work such as construction, landscaping, moving, etc. You can find an opportunity that suits you, no matter what your strengths may be.

You can find a group to help via several methods: online, cold calls, or even ads.

Online you’ll find several sites to help you find opportunities. Below are a few to get you started:

You can also check out an organization’s website to get information about the organization and any volunteer opportunities they may have.

If there’s a specific group or organization you’re interested in helping, your best bet may be to just call the organization. If they have a need for volunteers, they will let you know, or at least direct you to the person to speak with. You can also discuss with the volunteer coordinator exactly what you’re interested in doing. An organization may have different needs that you can choose from.

Some organizations will advertise when they need volunteers, either in general or for a specific event or activity. You can find these ads in local newspapers or in the organization’s newsletter or website. Some may even advertise around the community via signage. Keep your eyes open to find opportunities.

Making a Difference: Online Help

Helping others can be as local or as broad as you’d like it to be. And online resources can help you in your quest, whether it’s locating organizations to help or researching a charity before donating. While many individual organizations or charities have their own websites, you can also find general sites that will guide you in your goals.

Where to Help
If you’re unsure where to start, these sites can help. You can find charities and organizations and get matched with the right ones for you.

Charity Ratings
It’s an unfortunate reality that in this day and age not all organizations are reputable. Some scammers will post as charitable organizations, looking to pilfer your money. Before donating, check out the following sites that will give you the info n the charities you’re looking to invest in:

These sites can also help guide you in finding a charity if you haven’t yet selected one.

Helping the World
In this global community, it’s easier than ever to connect with people around the world. And that means it’s also easier to help people around the world. If this is your goal, the internet is here to help. The sites below are just some of the many that can link you to organizations helping our global neighbors.:

Obviously this is just a beginning when it comes to making a difference online. You’re only limited by your imagination and resources! If you’re interested in a specific type of organization, using your favorite search engine can bring up several excellent choices. Just be sure to check them out before donating.

Making a Difference: Starting Small

It may seem that to truly make a difference you have to dish out tons of money or time. So how can you move forward in this goal if you don’t have the money or time to give? You start small.
Sometimes the smallest action or donation can make a huge difference. Just ask the starving man who received a hot meal, the new mother who was able to get an hour of uninterrupted sleep, or the struggling student who got helping figuring out the difficult problem. None of these scenarios required a lot of time or money, yet the recipient was more than grateful for the help. Here are some ideas to get you started in your own journey to make a difference:
Donate to your local food pantry
Go through your kitchen cabinets for non-perishable items that you aren’t using (make sure you check expiration dates to ensure they’re still good) and donate them to the local food pantry. Or pick up a few staples next time you go grocery shopping and donate those. Some food pantries will also accept donations of health and beauty items. Contact your local social services department if you aren’t sure where the food pantry is or how to donate.
Donate to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or other organizations
Clothes, housewares, books and more can be donated to charitable organizations. The items will either be given to those who need them or sold to earn cash that can be used to help others. Clean out your closets and drawers to find items you no longer need or want, and donate these to one such organization. Even larger items, like furniture, can be donated if they’re in good condition.
Donate to a battered women’s shelter
Shelters that help victims of domestic abuse can benefit from donations of health and beauty items and clothing items, especially items that can help women establish new lives and careers (suits for job interviews, etc.) Clean out your closets or pick up a few items on your next shopping excursion.
Shop at Goodwill, the Salvation Army or Savers
Next time you need to pick up an article of clothing, something for your home, or a new book or movie, swing by your local thrift store. You get what you need, and the money you spend goes toward a worthwhile organization — it’s a win-win.
Organize a food or clothing drive
If you’re part of a school or organization, put together a drive to gather food or clothing to donate. Have members bring in items to donate, then bring those items over to the food pantry or thrift store.
Organize a blood drive
Contact your local branch of the Red Cross to see how you can arrange a blood drive at your school or business.
Volunteer in small doses
Even an hour or two can help out your local groups and organizations. Help organize a book drive at your local library. See if you can help at a school’s homework helpline. Call local organizations that mean something to you — shelters, soup kitchens, animal shelters, etc. — and see if they want some help answering phones, filing paperwork, or helping visitors or clients. Any non-profit organization will rely on volunteers to help them function. Call around and see where you can help.
Go visiting
Some groups of people would love to simply have someone sit with them for a bit — especially elderly residents at assisted-living complexes and terminally-ill children in hospitals. Taking some time to spread some cheer can make them smile and perk up their days a bit.
Help your friends and family
Don’t forget to look close to home when it comes to helping others. Do you have an elderly neighbor? Offer to shovel snow, cook a meal or two, or help clean house. Know a parent with small children? Offer to babysit so that parent can go grocery-shopping, run errands, attend appointments, etc. without a child underfoot. Keep an eye and ear open for opportunities that might help those around you: job openings for your cousin looking for employment, doctor recommendations for a parent whose doctor is retiring, potential customers for your brother starting his own business.
Opportunities to help others are all around you. Just keep looking!

Take Charge and Make a Difference

The internet and other media have truly made our world a global community. While that’s great as far as education and communication are concerned, it can also increase awareness of all the people and causes who could use our help. If you’re feeling the urge to truly make a difference in the lives of others, then this posting is for you.
There are many ways to make a difference, from writing a check to traveling across the globe to help out firsthand. Regardless of what works for you, help is appreciated and gives not only those you help but you yourself a sense of fulfillment and well-being.
Donating
The quickest, simplest way to contribute is by writing a check (or the monetary or electronic equivalent!). Money can go a long way toward helping people and organizations who need help. Just make sure you’re familiar with the organizations you’re contributing to. Not all groups are reputable, and even some reputable organizations may be questionable when it comes to the percentage of monetary donations that are applied to actually doing good. Check out www.CharityNavigator.org or www.CharityWatch.org to look up organizations you’re interested in.
In addition to monetary donations, you can also donate items that are needed — food, clothing, health and beauty aids, and more. Look for groups advertising food and clothing drives or inquire at your town’s social services department to find out how to donate. Items often go directly to those who need them, ensuring your donation is truly being put to good use.
Volunteering
When it comes to local groups and organizations, volunteering is a great way to help out, especially if you don’t have the monetary resources to finance a group or project or simply want a more hands-on way to give back. And if you have a specific skill or talent, there’s probably a group who would love to utilize it. If you’re particularly ambitious, you can even join an organization that will send you around the country and even around the world to help others with disaster relief and ongoing needs.
To find volunteer opportunities, check out www.Serve.gov to search for opportunities in your area or contact local groups and organizations to see if they could use a helping hand. Don’t forget places like nursing homes and hospitals that offer worthwhile opportunities to truly connect with other people.
Mentoring
If working with children is your forte, and you’re interested in helping at-risk kids, consider mentoring. You can coach, tutor, or just be a friend willing to lend a hand and a sympathetic ear. Check out http://www.nationalmentoringmonth.org/ to look for opportunities. You can also inquire at your town’s social services department about local opportunities, such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters.