This year, instead of buying friends and family lots of material goods that they may or may not like or return, consider giving each other the gift of time. It’s not only less expensive, but can yield a much higher “return”. Here is a money saving tip: Do some greater good in the world by organizing a volunteer event with friends, family or co-workers (i.e. in place of that tired “secret Santa” gift exchange you may do each year).
Mint’s Point of View
When your family volunteers together, you demonstrate the importance of caring for others. By volunteering with family or friends, you’ll meet new people, learn new skills, strengthen bonds, and make a difference in other people’s lives. You also can’t help but become more appreciative of what you have. And when you consider that there are 3.5 million homeless people in the U.S. (1.4 million of them are kids), another 3 million more people in hospitals and retirement homes, and thousands of families disrupted due to military service this year — you probably have a lot to be grateful for. Why not “give back” by giving your time this season…and save some money by doing so?
Once you’ve sold the idea to your soon-to-be able group of volunteers:
- Make a list of organizations you’d like to work with.
- Set some guidelines: Do you prefer being outdoors, animals, assisting the elderly, helping the homeless, working with your hands? How much time can you spend?
- Contact your target organizations to find out what volunteering projects they may have.
- If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few Web sites that will match you up with appropriate volunteer opportunities.
The Holiday Project is a national, non-profit organization in 31 states focused on spending the holidays with people in hospitals and nursing homes. Ways to participate include visiting with the elderly, making and wrapping gifts, managing and organizing events, and contributing cash and goods. For group visits, you choose the facility, setup, and manage visits with the help of the Holiday Project staff.
Network for Good is one of the leading Internet-based resources for donors, volunteers, and charities. They provide a search tool for volunteers to find opportunities based on their interests and geographic location, or to search for organization by name. It also provides searches for individual or group volunteer opportunities. Through the site, you can even volunteer abroad, keep online records of your service, and maintain a private journal.
Volunteer Match makes it easy to find opportunities with at least 50 organizations by searching based on your interests, skills, and schedule. They allow you to search for specific organizations, group opportunities, and even virtual volunteering opportunities. You can also request email alerts when new opportunities based on your criteria become available.
Idealist is a non-profit where people exchange resources and ideas, search for non-profit jobs, and locate volunteer opportunities and supporters. Using their search engine, you can find opportunities based on: area of focus, location, age, language, date, and specific opportunities for families or groups. Idealist also offers email alerts.
Volunteers of America is a national, non-profit volunteer organization in 44 states. Projects include working with: the disabled, day care centers, and teachers; and helping offenders transition from prison to the community. Volunteer opportunities are available for individuals as well as groups and can be short-term, weekly, or monthly.
If you’ve used some of these web sites to find volunteer projects in the past, please add your comments below…how were they to work with? If you have a different recommendation for help in matching your interests with your community’s needs, please share that, too.
And if you do organize a volunteer project, please send us a group photo. We’d love to post it on the bulletin board in the Mint company kitchen. And we might just send you some t-shirts to say thanks!