Impactful ways to volunteer … even if you’re short on time and cash

Nov 22, 2013
Box Brigade

When it comes to volunteering, many of us admit that we would give back to the community more often if we only had the extra time and funds to spare. In fact, a “lack of time” was the No. 1 reason cited by Americans for not volunteering, according to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If you haven’t contributed to a charitable effort lately, consider letting Kiwanis or another organization fill that void. Explore the many ways you can make an impact. Consider the following reasons you may have for not volunteering … as well as a few ideas on how you can overcome them to make a difference in your community.

1. “I don’t have much time.”

If this is your main reason for avoiding community service, you’re probably limiting your options. Many organizations provide opportunities for you to make a significant impact with a minimal amount of time. For example, Habitat for Humanity International is known for attracting volunteers who are able to spend numerous hours, if not days, constructing homes for families who otherwise could not afford them. Yet, the agency also depends upon people who are only able to give through other methods, says Abri Hochstetler, a HH marketing and communications coordinator. Consider these alternatives: 
  • Ask your employer if you can host a campaign to gather donations for an organization, such as funds, building supplies or school supplies.
  • Shop at resale stores sponsored by charitable agencies, such as Habitat’s ReStore, Goodwill and Salvation Army. Sales and donations support various community programs.
  • Schedule two to three hours a month to work on a specific project. Think about it. That’s about the same amount of time it would take you to watch a movie.
  • Donate online through automatic monthly deductions.

2. “I don’t know what to do.”

It’s possible that you’re not engaged with volunteerism simply because you don’t know where to start. Some organizations, including Kiwanis, have clubs that make it easy to start volunteering. It can be as simple as visiting your local Kiwanis club's website to find a nearby club with people in your age group, whether you’re an adult, college student, or an elementary school, middle school or high school student.

3. “I have a limited budget.”

Perhaps you don’t think you can help others because it seems you can barely make ends meet yourself. If that’s your situation, consider becoming an advocate for an issue that fits your interests. You don’t even need to spend money on gas. If you have access to a computer, use your social media contacts to start a campaign on behalf of a charitable organization, suggests the American Red Cross. Tell your Facebook friends why you believe in the cause. If you are not internet-savvy, many organizations like the American Red Cross use volunteers to make phone calls on their behalf.

4. “It’s important to spend my spare time with family.”

With family members often going in different directions for work, school, sports and other activities, “together time” may seem like a rare commodity. How about planning a charitable effort that all of you can support as a team? Hold a family meeting to discuss what’s important to you as a family. Whether it’s fighting hunger, protecting the environment or raising awareness about a health issue, there are various agencies that will match your interests. Kiwanis International has opportunities for all age groups. Not only will you and your family spend time together, but you will help generations of your family develop a deeper appreciation for how they can improve their communities.

During the holiday season, think about ways you can take your volunteer efforts up a notch year-round. You have more influence than you think, even if you may not have much time or money.

Learn more about Kiwanis and its programs—and find a club near you!

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