6 Ways to Make a Difference with Volunteering
By: Ariel Kutcher, Director of Marketing, Lazarus Rising
Co-founders Matthew Sobel and Matthew Rojas gather with other members of Lazarus Rising for a meeting.
World Homeless Day: How You Can Join the Fight Against Homelessness Today and Join Other Causes Year-Round
Today is World Homeless Day, one day of the year dedicated to the nearly half a million Americans at any given point who are experiencing homelessness. What causes homelessness? As the National Alliance To End Homelessness notes:
- “More than at any other time, there is a lack of housing that low income people can afford. Without housing options, people face eviction, instability and homelessness.
- Low income households often do not earn enough to pay for food, clothing, transportation and a place they can call home.
- Health and homelessness are inextricably linked. Health problems can cause a person’s homelessness as well as be exacerbated by the experience. Housing is key to addressing the health needs of people experiencing homelessness.
- Many survivors of domestic violence become homeless when leaving an abusive relationship.
- Most minority groups in the United States experience homelessness at higher rates than Whites, and therefore make up a disproportionate share of the homeless population.”
While homelessness is a complex issue, you can make a difference. Volunteers at organizations such as Lazarus Rising help people experiencing homelessness build resumes, conduct mock interviews, and apply for jobs online. Volunteers can also take on more traditional organizational roles such as marketing, fundraising, web development, corporate partnerships, and other niche areas where their skills align.
Here are six tips on how you can use your time to better someone’s life, and better yours in the process.
Volunteer Matthew Sobel (left) with Lazarus Rising program participant Steven Collins (right)
1. Use Volunteering Time to Focus On What You Care About
Want to build a new skill for your career? Curious about exploring a different industry? Focus on what drives you when prioritizing your volunteer activities. What fills you with a sense of urgency to help out? Once you have that, you’ll feel weird even calling volunteering “work” because it’ll be driving your passion.
2. Manage Your Schedule, Not Your Day
We all work in different ways, and have different responsibilities we have to be accountable for. Find the times that work best for you, whether it’s the morning while you’re having your coffee, the mid-afternoon when things slow down a bit, or when you get home and unwind – whatever it is that allows you to work best. We all have the time it may mean turning off the TV when Netflix asks if you’re still watching, for example. If you can budget your time effectively, there’s a lot more time in the day than you can imagine. Look for what works for you, such as scheduling tools or an accountability buddy to improve your commitment to personal development goals. Some people prefer volunteering on the weekends; some prefer an hour or two a week, and some nonprofits even enable volunteers to participate remotely.
3. Be Transparent About Your Interests Outside of Work
If you’re as transparent as possible with your team and still doing the tasks you need to get through, you’d be amazed at the flexibility you can achieve. People will be supportive of your interests as you can be open about them. Our CSO Jake Oppenheim wisely said, “What I have learned is most people are very supportive of philanthropic activities, and communicating that you are involved in these kinds of activities can go a long way.” Don’t hide your passion; embrace it, and those around you will do what they can to make your goals a reality.
4. Consider Skills-Based as well as Direct Service Volunteer Opportunities
It’s easy to get caught up in your routine, and easy for that monotony to become consuming. Volunteering can help you stretch your skills and serve as a refreshing change of pace. Do you sit in an office all day? Plant trees or clean up beaches. Work alone most of the time? Tutor youth or help the elderly. Have a skill you’d like to share with the world? Use it like these pro bono volunteers who helped the Red Cross respond to a historic disaster by making their technology more scalable. Some good resources to find pro bono or skill-based volunteering opportunities are Taproot Foundation and Catchafire.org; VolunteerMatch is known for having direct service opportunities. Do work that helps you grow!
5. Be the Change You Want to See At Your Company
Does your company not have an employee giving or volunteering program? No problem! You can be the intrapreneur – the internal entrepreneur – at your organization. The League of Intrapreneurs has a handy toolkit on this topic, and StartingBloc has a great 5 day program that can also help you lead change. You can also share this article by Povaddo with your manager or executive team that portrays why companies that don’t lead in social impact are going to fall behind in the marketplace. Lastly, check out these lessons learned from the Salesforce.org team about corporate philanthropy and technology.
6. Make Time to Relax
You can’t make effective change happen if you burn out. Be kind to yourself as well as to others. Maybe your volunteer activity is to start a company wellness program at your workplace! Or if that sounds too ambitious, your version of relaxing could be to unplug and do nothing for an hour. Read a book. Take a nap. Go for a walk. It’s OK to take a break so you can be more happy, productive, and at ease in your workplace and your volunteer life. Crazily enough, doing nothing is sometimes the best thing you can do.
Hopefully these tips can help drive you to do what you can to find your passion, find the time, and make a difference where you’re driven to. There are countless organizations to get involved with, and a surplus of resources on how to help out. At Lazarus Rising, you can use skills you already have as a professional to bring up others, such as resume workshops, mock interviews, and job search portal navigation, or even internal roles if that’s where your experience lies. Lazarus Rising is currently operating in seven cities, including New York City and Philadelphia, and is always looking for more volunteers to join the cause. The only thing you need to do is start somewhere, because once you’ve helped one person, you’ve changed one world for the better.
For more details on best practices in workplace giving and volunteering, and employee engagement statistics, download this report from Povaddo about how leading companies engage top talent.
About the Author
Ariel Kutcher is Director of Content at Lazarus Rising. He is excited to be at Lazarus Rising to combat homelessness by empowering people with the skills they need to secure meaningful employment. He helps manage volunteers to run personalized resume reviews, mock interviews, and job portal navigation at no cost to the participants or community partners. Based in the NYC area, he manages brand strategy to drive new volunteer, partner, and donor connections, including marketing operations, content and phone and email outreach. Learn more about the organization by visiting the Lazarus Rising website.
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