Is volunteering from home good for you and your schedule? If you want to give back to your community but aren't sure how, it just might be the solution. In fact, a whopping 73 percent of us say lack of time or money is holding us back from lending a hand. Time to let go of those excuses! Below, our experts share the fast (and free) ways you can make a difference.
Remember: Staying active in your community keeps the doctor away. In one study, seniors who volunteered slashed their visits to the doctor’s office by 75 percent. Talk abiut some major
Addicted to Scrabble or Words with Friends? Use your gaming skills for the greater good, suggests charity expert Kathryn Hawkins. “At Charitii.com, you answer crossword puzzles, and for every correct answer you give, the site makes a donation to your selected charity,” she explains. For example, one right answer preserves 10 square inches of rainforest through The Nature Conservatory.
The hot new way to save the world? “Microvolunteering,” says Hawkins. “At Sparked.com, for example, you simply select your skill — from blogging to writing — and match it to a cause of your choice. Spend as little as 10 minutes doing anything from brainstorming with an animal shelter about how to get their message out to proofreading a nonpro¡ t’s press release.” Also pajama-perfect: “HelpFromHome.org has amazing things you can do in under five minutes, like helping a charity grow by watching its educational video online and sharing it with a friend. Each activity has a ‘pajama-rating’ to help you gauge how easy it’s going to be.”
Volunteering should always be fun — and we all have time for that, says giving-guru Cori Allen (AltrUHelp.com). To help you quickly zero in on what you can do, “Just write down three interests you have and three skills that match each one. It sounds simple, but that clear guideline is often all people need to help them see how easy it can be,” she says. “Say you have a passion for art: You can do anything from donate a paintbrush to the next Picasso who can’t afford one to give a watercolor lesson at the senior center.” For help matching your passions to opportunities, just visit VolunteerMatch.org.
Your love of great books can change the world, promises expert Arthur Blaustein: “Start a book club with a social conscience,” he suggests. Reading works that raise thought-provoking questions — from The Grapes of Wrath to The Help — not only inspires you to look at the world in new ways, it opens the eyes of your friends and neighbors. “Stories that engage people get them talking about issues, sparking a ripple effect of good,” notes Blaustein.
A savings account that can save the future? “Set up an online money market savings account at AbleBanking.com,” suggests expert Kelly Whalen, “and they’ll donate $25 when you sign up plus the equivalent of .25% of your balance to a charity of your choice every year.”
Borrow a page from the Kennedys. Long before “Camelot,” the Kennedys sat on the forefront of goodwill by teaching their kids about giving: “They volunteered together,” says Blaustein. “To instill that ethic, one Saturday a month give back as a family, be it walking an older neighbor’s dog or pitching in at the community center.”
The quickest way to make a difference? “Sharing your knowledge,” says Whalen. “My husband loves technology, so he started a robotics club at my son’s school.” But you don’t have to start a club: “Ask if you can devote 30 minutes to a mini-lesson at your child’s school on anything from calligraphy to digital photography.”
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