Here we are, a few weeks into 2017. How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions? You still have many months to get them right!
I heard an interesting tidbit: 12.5 percent of Americans resolved to volunteer for a charity in 2017 (source unknown). Although I cannot verify the accuracy of the statistic, it certainly seems possible, and can have benefits for both community and the volunteer.
If you are part of that 12.5 percent, here are some tips to help you start:
First, volunteer for an organization that stirs your heart. You may need to volunteer for a few places and learn more about them before you feel like you have found a fit. If you believe in an organization’s mission but not in the way they are approaching the work, then it is going to be tough for you to be comfortable and motivated in your volunteer role. However, there is a danger in volunteering for many different organizations – you might fall in love with all of them – there are so many great ones.Second, look for something that fits your talent. For example, if you are great at organizing things, then volunteering a few hours each week in a nonprofit’s office makes sense. If you love to talk to people, you could make thank you calls to donors or greet people at an event. If you are a genius with finances, a nonprofit or local government finance committee could be a good fit.Third, find something that fits your schedule. If you are working full time, there are still many things you can do! You can help one day each year at a festival, or read to kids during lunch once each month. Sometimes, there are even tasks that can be done from home. If you have more time on your hands, then dive in and get as involved as you can.If you follow these three tips, then you may start enjoying the well-documented benefits of volunteering, which include overall better health and well-being. In addition, I recently learned about two newly identified benefits of volunteering: First, teens who volunteer are less likely to be incarcerated later in life, even if the volunteer work was required (University of Iowa); second, 80 percent of employers surveyed claimed they would be more likely to hire someone who volunteers than someone who does not (study commissioned by Oxfam).
United Way of Southwest Colorado introduced a new website for volunteers in 2016: connectSWCO.org. There, you can search for volunteer opportunities that fit your interests, talents and time. Local organizations and clubs that help the community can also post volunteer opportunities there for all to see. Help us build it up even more this year!
Finally, I want to give kudos to Laura McKinney, the Durango Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year winner. We are proud to claim Laura as one of ours, but we share her with many others. She resolved to volunteer many places and stuck with them all! Congratulations, Laura! Thank you for Living United.
Lynn Urban is the president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Colorado.