It's a brand new year and many of us have made resolutions to make our lives better in one way or another. We hope your resolutions include working to make your community better, too! But where do you start? How do you make your community a better place? We have some tips to get started, and we'd love to hear about what you're doing!
1. Find a cause you care about.
This is the best first step, because if you're not connected to the work that you'll be doing, it's not going to be any fun. What do you care about most in your community? Do the local school systems need a little help? Are there a lot of stray animals in your neighborhood? Do you love the way your library smells and want everyone to be as excited about books as you are? Once you've found something in your community you'd like to make better, then...
2. Find a way to help.
One of the easiest ways to find a way to get involved in a cause that you care about it is to volunteer with an organization like United Way that's already supporting that cause. You can volunteer for many amazing local organizations by going to United Way's website to find a role that's right for you.
3. Do a little research.
Spend a bit of time on the websites of the organizations that host the projects you're interested in. Find out how they support the causes you're interested in and learn about the work they do in your community. If you find a nonprofit you'd like to support and a way to support them that sounds fun, you can...
4. Sign up for a project!
Each of our affiliates has a way to sign up for projects on their site. They're not all the same, but it's really easy! Go to our Volunteer Center homepage to view, sign up, and comment on many opportunities in the community.
5. Remember it's OK to ask questions.
It's alright to ask questions about the project before you show up. Project listings should have a person to contact if you have any questions about what the project is about and how you need to prepare. A lot of questions are answered in the project descriptions, but if your question isn't, it's alright to get in touch with the event organizer so you're ready for the day when you show up!
6. Show up ready to have fun.
You're volunteering because there's a cause you care about, right? That doesn't mean you can't have a good time! The best way to make sure you'll have fun at your first volunteer experience is to go in with an open mind. You might be asked to do something different than what you signed up for, or you might be asked to something you don't know how to do. Keep an open mind and try it out, you might learn a thing or two, or find something you never thought you'd love to do! Volunteering can be serious business, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun.
7. Take time to reflect on your experience.
A lot of volunteer projects have some time set aside at the end of the project to think critically about the work that you just did. Reflecting on how working in a community garden can have an impact on the health of the local watershed or how it can influence kids to eat better is an important part of the volunteer experience. It doesn't just give you a definite stopping point for a project, but it helps volunteers to better understand how their work has multiple effects in their community. If you volunteered with United Way, consider writing a reflection on the organization's page to inform others of your experience.
8. Keep making a difference!
Did you have a great time volunteering? Did you make new friends? Did you learn something new? Awesome! Why not let us know?
Tell us about it on our Facebook page! Did you not quite fit with the project or organization? That's alright! There are a lot more organizations out there that need your help that could be a better fit for you. Was your first volunteer experience great? Let us know in the comments section of the organization's page!
9. Pass it along.
Did you have a great time volunteering? Why not bring a friend along with you next time? Not only will it make sure you know someone at the project, but you'll be involving your friend in something you care about and making your community better! Plus there's a great opportunity to take cheesy pictures to share on Facebook!