Get the Family Involved
Deciding to get involved in your community is easy, but finding a cause that appeals to every member of your family may not be. Choosing where to volunteer often takes a lot of thoughtful consideration and legwork, and it is important that each family member feels he or she has helped make the choice so that everyone will feel committed to the cause and the overall experience.
Consider these questions when deciding where to volunteer:
- What skills, personality traits and talents does your family have to offer?
- What do you want your family to learn from the experience?
- How much time are you able to commit?
- What causes or issues are important to your family?
- What are the ages of your children?
- What times and locations are most convenient for your family?
- Do you want to volunteer with other families?
Choose the Right Time Commitment
Often when we think of volunteering, we imagine assisting at an animal shelter once a month, sorting food at a food bank on certain evenings, or delivering meals to the homebound. But there are also less structured ways for families to give their time, projects that enable families to volunteer whenever they choose. Holidays are an ideal time for families to volunteer, because it allows you all to enjoy time together, while also spreading some festive cheer. But get started early! Most organizations are inundated with volunteers during this time.
Volunteer Ideas for Valentine's Day:
- Make and deliver Valentine's Day cards to a veteran's hospital, nursing home, or hospital.
- Throw a Valentine's Day party for the children at a homeless shelter or the residents of a nursing home.
- Act as "sweethearts" to seniors by delivering flowers and chocolates.
Find the Right Opportunity
If your family is still uncertain about where to volunteer, there are many resources to help you explore your options. Churches, temples, and synagogues often have service committees that offer volunteer opportunities. In addition, almost every major city has a volunteer coordination office or bureau that can provide leads for you. Here are a few other resources to help you get started:
- Give Spot – This website will help you find out more about volunteering, charities, donation sites, non-profits, and foundations.
- Points of Light – Points of Light Foundation is a national non-profit dedicated to increasing volunteerism.
- United Way – Locate your local United Way website and click on "volunteer" to view the listings in your area.
- Volunteer Match – This website matches organizations looking for volunteers with people interested in making a volunteering commitment.
Once you've decided on a volunteer job, it's important to prepare your children for what to expect and how to behave. It is also important that everyone have a clear idea of why the family is spending time volunteering. How you approach these issues can make a big difference in how excited your kids are about their new job. Here are some tips for getting all of you ready to begin your volunteering adventure:
- Show enthusiasm!
- Become educated on the organization and volunteer expectations.
- Describe what will happen to your children.
- Let them know how they're expected to behave.
- Explain why this job is important.
Understand the Commitment
Finding a volunteer job is only the beginning. If you've chosen to undertake an ongoing commitment, it's important that your family volunteering experience continue to be fun and meaningful. To make it work for the long haul, here are some things you can do:
- Learn more about the position.
- Take the volunteer position seriously.
- Talk about the volunteer experience with your family.
- Continue to explain the benefits of the people you serve.
- Be patient with your children's efforts.
- Show your children what they're learning by volunteering.
- Have a good time!
- Pause and take time to reflect.
Think you don't have time to volunteer? You do! The Busy Family's Guide to Volunteering offers you a multitude of ways to involve the whole family in the volunteer experience. For more tips to find the right volunteer opportunity for your family and to resolve any doubts or hesitations you may feel, check out The Busy Family's Guide to Volunteering by Jenny Friedman.