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Use your time to volunteer

January 18, 2011
Daily Press

In these tough economic times, charities and nonprofit organizations need our help more than ever.

Like the rest of society, these organizations have been forced to do more with less. Not only have donations dwindled, but demand for their services has increased as hard times have touched many of our neighbors.

One of the best ways to help out a charity or nonprofit is to give of yourself - volunteer your time to a worthy cause. The Delta County area is full of organizations that make a difference and need your help. Whether its the Delta County Animal Shelter or St. Vincent de Paul Society, you will be dong a world of good just by spending a few hours of your week reaching out to someone else.

Much of the great work that charities perform is made possible because of volunteers and the number of people giving their time continues to grow. According to the most recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 63.4 million people volunteered for an organization in 2009, or 26.4 percent of the US population.

Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance to make sure your time and energy are put to great use as a volunteer:

Identify your skills. Volunteering opportunities are available for any skill level. Consider what you're good at and what services you'd be particularly well-equipped to provide. From stuffing envelopes to construction to providing pro bono legal advice, you can find a good fit regardless of your education or talents.

Consider your passions. Maximize your enthusiasm for volunteering by finding an issue that resonates with your own personal passions. If you're a runner, consider a marathon fund-raiser. If you like history, look for opportunities to help out during the planning of Escanaba's upcoming sesquicentennial celebration. By identifying your passions, you're more likely to stay engaged with the charity and be a more effective volunteer.

Determine your availability. Make a realistic estimate of how much time you're willing to give.

Maybe it's just a weekend of picking up trash at a park, or maybe you're willing to make a long-term commitment to tutoring someone to read. It's better to volunteer the amount of time you can reasonably handle, rather than drop out in the middle of a longer commitment.

Research the charity thoroughly. Just as you would before making a cash donation, research the charity fully before you volunteer to make sure the organization has a commitment to standards and accountability.

Commit to stick with it. According to an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, more than one third of those who volunteer one year don't volunteer anywhere the following year. Even if your early attempts at volunteering weren't a good fit, keep at it and look for new opportunities to give back. In a tough economy, charities need the support of volunteers more than ever.



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