How to help others—volunteering during the holidays

Don't limit yourself to volunteering only over the holidays, but also year round.

Don’t limit yourself to volunteering only over the holidays, but also year round.

Tis the season to give … and that means more than gift cards and wrapped packages. Volunteering during the holidays is a great way to get more involved with your local community and give back to those who are less fortunate. Learn how to help others this holiday season and what you can get back from the experience.

Give and get

Sure you know that volunteering during the holidays, or any time of year for that matter, is a great thing for your local community. But did you know that you can also snag some pretty big benefits yourself when you step up to help others? The Big Future blog on the College Board site shares some ways that you can not only help others by volunteering, but also get a little something in return in “Volunteering: How Helping Others Helps You:”

  • Gain life experience and skills—volunteering can give you some hands-on experience and allow you to explore an area you may be interested in as a major or career
  • Meet interesting people—when volunteering you are likely to encounter new people, from different backgrounds, which is a great way to broaden your horizons
  • Get academic credit—ask if your college has a service learning program that will give you academic credit for your volunteer efforts
  • Show colleges you are committed—let your college (or prospective college) know how much you have to offer when you demonstrate that you are a giver, not just a taker
  • Make a difference—small efforts really do matter, and you will be amazed when you see the impact you can have on someone else simply by giving your time or talents

What you need to know

Unfortunately, you may not be the only one with the bright idea to volunteer this holiday season. For that reason, Bevin Wong with the United Way of King County in Seattle recommended some ideas to consider on October 24, 2013, in “Five Things You Need to Know Before You Volunteer This Holiday Season!” His first suggestion is to get started early planning what and where you want to volunteer. If that ship has sailed and time has run out, then it is time to get creative and think outside of the box. Just because it is the holiday season, doesn’t mean that your volunteering must involve serving turkey or candy canes. Try to come up with less typical ways you can help others.

Wong also advises, “When you reach out to a nonprofit to request to volunteer, be patientVolunteer coordinators are likely being inundated with requests to volunteer, on top of trying to accomplish their day-to-day jobs. They want to respond as quickly as possible, but it may take more time than normal.”

The perfect match

Helping others sounds pretty cool, but you aren’t quite sure where to start? VolunteerMatch is a great website that may be able to help. The nonprofit organization got started in 1994 and since then has grown. The site now welcomes more than 850,000 monthly visitors and has become the preferred volunteer recruiting service for its participating nonprofits. You can search for their holiday volunteering opportunities around the country to find options near your home or college. The site offers ways to help that address a wide variety of areas and needs, from children or animals to environmental issues or the homeless, in major cities across the nation.

Finally, remember that volunteering during the holidays is great—but help is needed all year round. So consider keeping your altruism going into the New Year and beyond.

Other thoughts on ways you can give back this holiday season and beyond? Share them in the comments below.

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