by: Kelly Fliller
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead, Cultural Anthropologist
The world is vast and full of people in need of some kind of assistance. It can feel like one small gesture, one hour of work, one dollar or one person can hardly make a difference. On the contrary, no help is too small. Any resource a person can give whether that be time, money, hours, a hot meal or even spreading the word about a specific cause can make a big impact.
Here are just a handful of ways you can get started with volunteering or helping your community.
1. Financial donations – most non-profit organizations take financial donations. This can be a direct donation or in the form of buying tickets to an event or raffle and most likely can easily be done online through the organization’s website. Many charitable businesses make it easy for employees to donate by having the money taken out weekly in the form of a payroll deduction. The smallest amount helps and it all adds up.
2. Donation of time – whether you serve on a non-profit board, committee or volunteer to help run an event, every minute you provide is helpful and appreciated. Having served on numerous boards and committees, I know how much just a few hours a month can mean to an organization that is running on limited resources. Even if you can’t commit to board or committee meetings, you can volunteer in other ways. I’ve created flyers, designed newsletter templates, even stamped envelopes to help a non-profit hit their goals – all from the comfort and convenience of my own home. Take it from Steve Heisman, Executive Director of HABcore, Inc. who said, “The impact of a volunteer is immeasurable. Not only does it help alleviate a strained budget, it gives our residents a sense of community. It is very comforting to our residents to know that people care enough to take time to teach them a skill, make them a special meal, or introduce them to a recreational activity they otherwise would not have the opportunity to experience.”
3. Spread the word – it doesn’t always have to be money or hours on location to mean you are making a difference. Do you have a Facebook account? Twitter? Email? Chances are the answer is yes to all of the above. Spread the word about a non-profit organization you hold close to your heart. Share a Facebook post when an organization asks for a donation, announces an event or tells the story about its mission. Forward that email requesting gift items for an auction event or to purchase tickets to a fundraiser. This takes very little time but can help an organization reach a new audience it never even knew it had! That is very valuable.
4. Get involved in a community activity – helping not only makes us (and those we are helping) feel good, but it can also be fun. Get the family together and assist with the local beach cleanup, serve a hot meal at a soup kitchen or participate in a holiday gift drive. Helping as a family is a great way to get involved and it can become a yearly tradition. Paul McEvily, Co-Executive Director of Interfaith Neighbors, Inc. said, “Any assemblage of buildings (residential, commercial, mixed use) can comprise a neighborhood but it’s the people who live in and frequent those buildings that make for a community. I believe that every member of the community, regardless of their financial situation, has the capacity – and indeed a responsibility – to contribute to the health and long-term sustainability of their community. At Interfaith Neighbors, we strive to help those community members who are struggling “get to a better place” and, in the process, encourage them to recognize and seize the opportunities they have each and every day to contribute in some way to the betterment of their community. Think what our neighborhoods would be like if everyone looked for and acted upon those opportunities!”
5. Donate basic necessities – do you have gently used clothes, shoes or coats you can donate? There are many places that will pick up your items at your doorstep and leave a receipt for tax deductions. Want to help in other ways? Grab some extra cleaning products or personal hygiene items next time you shop and drop them off at a local shelter or church. And we all have cans or boxes of non-perishable food items we can give to the local food pantry or church. One small gesture can mean the world to a family in need.
Think about a time when someone reached out to you when you needed help and how good it felt to know that someone cared. One person can make a difference. Gwendolyn Love, Executive Director of Lunch Break said, “All of our successes are just one small deed away and everyone can participate by doing just one small deed a day. The human race is hungry for simple and basic communication and fellowship and out of that will spring forth a wealth of opportunities as we see demonstrated at Lunch Break each and every day.”
You can find volunteer opportunities listed on idealist.org. Just enter your town or zip code at the top right and you’ll see everything that’s available in your area. You can narrow it down by interest as well.
As I sign off, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes relating to small acts making a BIG difference…
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” – Dalai Lama
What are some of the ways you help others and get involved in your community?