08 July 2005
by Joseph V. Amodio
New York, USA:
Helping a cause can be as easy as sending a text message (and you might get a party invite, too). Volunteer work has never been easier, or more of a blast, and finding it never so high-tech. That's the message from volunteer agencies looking to entice younger individuals into the ranks of community do-gooders.
Gone are the days when those interested in volunteering had to search out ads in fliers, Pennysavers, or on some crumpled-up, stapled-over handout sheet falling off a student union bulletin board. Today, think interactive Web sites, e-mail blasts and text-messaging.
And, to keep you coming back, they've got food, drink and all kinds of social activities planned.
"We recruit using e-mail blasts, rock concerts and comedy jams," says Sean Frankel of the On Your Feet Project, a US-based national nonprofit organization that targets college students and 20-somethings who may have a little free time on their hands.
Emphasis on little. Rather than asking for a weekly commitment - so old-school - charities are encouraging "episodic volunteering", tapping participants for specific events (such as last year's tsunami disaster) or causes (a fund-raiser).
"Since September 11, we're a city full of people who feel the need to help one another," says Frankel, who directs the group's city chapter. Not that it's limited to New York, he notes. On Your Feet has chapters in Philadelphia and San Francisco - with branches in LA and Boston due to open later this year. "In a post-9/11 world, there are more people around the country saying, 'What can I do?'"
Even the under-30 set, an age group traditionally sluggish at volunteering, is asking the question.
"Young people today are becoming more involved, emerging as a force with issues that are important to them - like sweatshop labour or the AIDS crisis," says Charles L. Robbins, associate dean of Stony Brook University's School of Social Welfare.
Some groups that are making it easier than ever - and fun - to let the giving force be with you.