5 Ways to Volunteer Differently in 2014

Volunteer at the Austin Food Bank

Need some new inspiration to volunteer this year? Ready to take your volunteering to the next level?

In fact, as we reported last week, volunteering rates are going way up in Austin – we’re now ranked 17 our of the 50 biggest cities in America for volunteering. So much better than our ranking of 41 in the previous year.

So be a part of the revolution. Learn more and click through below:

1. Help with office work. Nonprofits are chronically understaffed, and the staff is chronically overworked. If your work hours are flexible or you otherwise have some free time during the day, consider helping them out in the office. (There are even opportunities where you can work from home — simple!)

Yes, there’s always data entry. But they might also need someone to sort through thank-you notes, organize a photo file, put together thousands of invitations… lots of work. As a reward, you get to see your work get done, work alongside the people who make your favorite organization run and get a project off their plate that they’ve been dying to get done! The nonprofit will be eternally grateful, trust me.

HOW TO: Search VolunteerMatch under “office” and you can find scores of office opportunities locally and virtually.

2. Organize a volunteer activity for your office. Off the top of my head you could organize a food drive or a blood drive, adopt a family or child in need, collect supplies for pet shelters or kids’ shelters or the homeless…. And if you want to get out of the office, there are lots of volunteer days coming up this year though Hands On Central Texas.

HOW TO: Contact the organization you want to help (Capital Area Food Bank, The Blood Center of Central Texas, Austin Pets Alive!, Green Doors, etc.) or visit Hands On Central Texas to organize an off-site, volunteer outing for your organization.

3. Become a Volunteer Project Leader. You’ve been on a few volunteer outings — maybe some of them not so great — and you think you’d like to take these projects to the next level…? Then it’s time! Get trained to become a Volunteer Project Leader.

First of all, anyone can be a Volunteer Project Leader. Hands On Central Texas offers the training to people as young as 12 years old. And the training in invaluable. You’ll learn how to make a great experience for the volunteers, how to make sure you meet your goals and more. Plus, it looks great on your resume.

HOW TO: The half-day trainings take place almost every month — the next one is January 22. Learn more and sign up here.

4. Join a board. Board service is not for the meek, the broke or the overly scheduled. It’s serious business. You’ll have major responsibilities for overseeing the organization, raising money, growing the list of prospective donors and more. You know how there are nonprofits that get in trouble sometimes, go bankrupt, have troublesome employees, etc? Yeah, that’s the board’s fault. It’s for grown-ups.

But if you’re ready for a more serious commitment to nonprofits, board service is for you. Sometimes you’ll be recruited: A board member and a staff member ask to “take you to lunch.” (Be ready to say you’ll think about it… ) Sometimes, though, you have to be more aggressive and seek out the spots.

First, consider getting some training. Greenlights offers a great online course, “10 Essentials for Board Members, Jan. 28” or wait for their Board Summit in the summer, a nonprofit-board matching event that’s kind of like a job fair.

You might also inquire with a nonprofit you already give to or volunteer with. Look at their list of board members and see if you know any of them. Research them to find out if it’s all millionaires or if they take on non-millionaires. Research “Board service” online and read about what some nonprofits require.

HOW TO: Explore the Greenlights site for board training opportunities and mark your calendar for the Board Summit.

5. Join a volunteer group. Volunteering alone can be less than fulfilling; half the fun is being around fun, like-minded people. So consider joining a volunteering group. The great news is, in Austin there are lots to choose from.

Austin Involved is one of our favorites (and it’s founded by our own Courtney Clark!). You join for $25 a month and each month you learn about three nonprofits. From there, every member gets a vote to choose which nonprofit will receive the pooled donation and you all get to volunteer there together. You’re learning, giving, volunteering and meeting new people all in one swoop!

For those ready to donate a little more each month, consider giving circles like Impact Austin, The Women’s Fund of Central Texas or FuturoFund. The emphasis is more on giving grants to nonprofits from pooled member donations, but members still get to research and present about different nonprofits to see which ones will receive the grants. And you’ll love the camaraderie.

HOW TO: Click above and learn more!


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