11 April 2006
Volunteers of America, one of the nation's largest non-profits, is encouraging Americans to think about giving their time to help others during the National Volunteer Week (April 23-29). Though the rate of national volunteerism has remained about the same in the last few years, about 28 percent of the population or 65 million people (Bureau of Labour Statistics), Volunteers of America has seen its own volunteer corps double in the last three years from 41,000 volunteers in 2002 to over 95,000 volunteers in 2005.
"We find that volunteers get so much more than they expect out of helping others," said Charles Gould, president of Volunteers of America. "Whether people volunteer with us or at their school, church, hospital, or civic organization, they often find that the rewards of helping less fortunate people are greater than expected."
People in the 35 to 44-age bracket volunteer the most, followed by baby boomers aged 45 to 54. It is no surprise that the reason that more people don't volunteer is that they say they don't have time (Bureau of Labour Statistics).
"It is hard for people to make time in their busy schedules to volunteer," said LaVerne Campbell, director of volunteer services, Volunteers of America. "However there are ways to work volunteering into an already busy schedule by looking for opportunities that your family can do together, or that you can do through your office, church, or other organization that you are already associated with."
Volunteers of America offers the following tips to help people find meaningful volunteer opportunities that work with their lifestyles:
- Do what you love or have a passion for. You will get more out of a volunteer experience if you are working in an area you are passionate about. If you love working with children, seniors, or people with disabilities then find a volunteer opportunity that allows you to do this. If you are passionate about the issue of hunger, affordable housing, or the environment, look for agencies that address these problems. Their websites should offer information about volunteering.
- Look for opportunities at your place of employment. Many companies sponsor volunteer activities, will let you take time to volunteer, or will offer funds to your favourite charity. Speak to the human resources staff at your company.
- Volunteer close to home. If your schedule is really packed, multi-task by volunteering in your neighbourhood or at your children’s school. Ask your neighbours, or look in your local newspaper for volunteer opportunities. Some towns and counties also have databases of local volunteer positions.
- Look for volunteer positions that fit your lifestyle. You don't have to commit to a long-term volunteer assignment. There are volunteer positions available in the evenings, weekends, and some that can b edone online, at home, as well as those that are short-term activities.
- Find volunteer opportunities online. Sites such as Online Volunteering service and VolunteerMatch are clearing houses for volunteer opportunities, or you can log on to the Websites of agencies you are interested in for a listing of their volunteer activities.
- If you would like to volunteer with Volunteers of America, please visit http://www.VolunteersofAmerica.org.
"If you want to help, but can't find the time to volunteer, you can always make a contribution to your favorite charity," said Gould. "Websites like Charity Navigator offer ratings and descriptions on the best and most effective charities."
(Volunteers of America is a national, nonprofit, faith-based organization that is dedicated to helping those in need rebuild their lives and reach their full potential. Through thousands of human service programmes, including housing and healthcare, Volunteers of America helps nearly 2 million people in over 400 communities. Since 1896, its ministry of service has supported and empowered America's most vulnerable groups, including at-risk youth, the frail elderly, men and women returning from prison, homeless individuals and families, people with disabilities, and those recovering from addictions. For more information, visit the Volunteers of America website.)