With almost two million active charities in this country alone – according to guidestar.org, a sort of nonprofit watchdog – it can be hard to figure out which one is truly committed to your cause. Of course, there are websites and apps to help you perform your due diligence on a wide range of charitable organizations, evaluating the financial responsibility, accountability and transparency of each.
But, a more personal way to assess your favorite charity is to donate your time and talents in lieu of (or in addition to) money. Volunteering can remove the veil of uncertainty and give you an insider’s view of the organization, its people and practices. Moreover, you get to see firsthand the value and appreciation of your charitable gifts at work. Plus, a hands-on approach benefits the charity in ways a financial donation alone cannot.
Perhaps most importantly, there’s the feel-good aspect. You’re putting your skills and effort to use on behalf of something that benefits the world in some way. And, you get to see for yourself where change is needed and how you can make it happen. So when a family comes in to “shop” at the food bank you helped set up, you can directly see the impact your work has on people in your community. A rewarding experience for all involved.
Volunteering isn’t necessarily hard labor, either. It could mean canvassing, fundraising for a cause you believe in, or serving on the board to help keep the organization accountable. There are even scientific institutions looking for volunteers and computer processing power to advance their projects (e.g., Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing). Then there are groups of all kinds seeking pro bono professionals who can donate the financial, marketing, business and other skills a nonprofit needs to complement what its professional staff already does. If you have a particular expertise or talent, say accounting or web design, you may be called upon to deploy that skill to further the nonprofit’s mission. And you may discover a new and meaningful way to apply your talents or keep them fresh once you retire.
Generously dedicating your time and energy to charitable causes can provide enormous monetary value as well. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, about 64.5 million Americans – just over 26% of all adults – volunteered for 7.9 billion hours in 2012. That work is worth $175 billion to the nonprofits. Clearly, volunteering makes a difference, and one that boosts the charity’s ability to do good.
41% of LinkedIn hiring managers consider volunteer work as valuable as paid work experience.
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