What comes to mind when you think of youth and volunteering? Perhaps it is traditional activities like serving food at a local homeless shelter, participating in a charity walk or community activities with the Boy and Girl Scouts. The aforementioned activities are great, but there are lots of alternative ways to get the kids involved in volunteering this summer.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Simone Bernstein, the Co-founder of Volunteer Nation. She started the nonprofit with her younger brother to help youth connect with volunteer opportunities across the country.
Simone talked about the growing number of virtual opportunities for youth to get involved in volunteerism. With many kids being passionate about technology, it is a great way for nonprofits to enhance or expand upon their social media strategy. Organizations could have youth volunteers spread helpful information and promote charity events via Twitter or Facebook or research other groups to follow, all with the thought of building the organization’s social media presence.
Teenagers and kids can also volunteer with their family. They can lead and organize a service project (such as a food, clothing or sporting-goods drive) in their local communities and schools. If kids can’t find a particular volunteer opportunity that appeals to them, then take action and help them create their own project. Planning and executing their own volunteer activities will help them develop leadership and organization skills along with a commitment to a cause. Some online resources for finding youth volunteerism opportunities that Simone recommends are GenerationOn.org (part of Points of Light) and DoSomething.org.
In doing more research on some alternative ideas for youth to volunteer, I found an article about 40 Ways for Kids to Volunteer. Here are five out-of-the-box ideas to jump start kids volunteering:
- Tutor a student who needs help learning English or another subject
- Help a pet shelter by walking dogs or playing with cats
- Collect unused make-up, perfume and other cosmetics for distribution to low-income women
- Hold a stuffed animal drive to benefit a local nonprofit
- Baby sit to help a single parent
Thanks for reading my post and please add a comment below if you would like to share other creative ways to get kids involved with volunteering. If you have other helpful national resources, feel free to share them as well. So, until next time, take action and volunteer your heart out!
Giving is Good by Mark McCurdy
Mark McCurdy is a Renewal Sales Rep here at BiddingForGood and author of an excellent book called Strategic Volunteering: 50 Ingredients to Transform Your Life and Career. I had the chance to sit down with him this week and chat about his experiences volunteering and how he began volunteering at an early age.
“I started through church growing up. My mother ran a small adoption agency, so I would help out there. Volunteerism was always there. Whether it was stuffing envelopes or helping with fundraising. It was a family thing. “
Mark continued to volunteer through high school and college, but it was after he graduated from college that his passion for volunteering really began to flourish. He began to discover a connection between growing personally and professionally through volunteering.
“I began working with an organization that was a staffing company for nonprofits in NYC and I found YNPN (Young Non-profit Professionals Network) which is great resource. They have all different types of events, panel discussions, and volunteer opportunities with non-profits. Now I volunteer with a non-profit called Career Collaborative. I give practice interviews to low income individuals. I have also been on the board for two years for the organization called Adoption and Foster Care Mentoring, and I’m now on the advisory board. I also do the Parkinson’s Unity Walk in Central Park once a year. “
What is the key to volunteering?
“Think about something you are really passionate about. Find organizations that are a good fit for you. If you are interested in cooking or food, try providing meals, feeding the homeless or something around sustainable food sources. Second, if there is something that is really painful in your life, you can use that. Like my father has Parkinson’s. So I’m very passionate about that. Volunteering can be a way to use pain in a good way. “
Mark is very passionate about encouraging others to volunteer to live a fuller and more meaningful life. He explains that volunteering can help you start to bridge the gap between the job you have and the career you want, and also to develop deep gratitude and find joy in your life. Mark even let me in on a secret; volunteering can even make you healthier. He says, “There is a study that shows how volunteering makes you healthier; mentally and physically. There are several studies out there about it.”
The first study Marked referred to includes this statement from Thomas H. Sander, executive director of the Saguaro Seminar at Harvard University: “Civic Engagement and volunteering is the new hybrid health club for the 21st century that's free to join. Social capital research shows it miraculously improves both your health AND the community's through the work performed and the social ties built.”
Mark has some great pointers for our nonprofits:
“Look into YNPN . The other thing is to think about what skills you are looking for and how to find people with them. And focus on skill based volunteering. Volunteers can develop their professional skill set. Don’t forget about AmeriCorps and LinkedIn. The Job and Non-profits section on Linked In. Volunteer opportunities can be listed there. Also connect with your local One Stop Career Center. “
Mark has really made his passion for helping people and for using his own skills to help others part of his own life’s work. He’s now using his skills here at BiddingForGood to help our nonprofits reach their fundraising goals. He has his own consulting business named “Consulting: The Nonprofit Career Coach.” (Check out his website: www.thenonprofitcareercoach.org.) I had a chance to read Mark’s book and found it informative and inspiring! His book is available on amazon.com and I promise it will allow you to see volunteering in a whole new way!
Outside of BiddingForGood, many employees volunteer in their free time. To celebrate National Volunteer Month, we're interviewing some employees this week to learn about their volunteer experiences. To kick things off, I recently interviewed Amanda Rutherford, our Administrative Assistant:
How long have you volunteered?
Pretty much my whole life. My family took us to a soup kitchen and a nursing home to volunteer. My parents instilled volunteerism in us. I have been active in volunteering since high school and in college; I went on alternative spring breaks. One was for Katrina relief. It was a better way to spend my break and I got to meet new people and be around people who enjoyed volunteering too.
Where have you volunteered and where are you currently volunteering?
I volunteer now at Horizons for Homeless Children. (They have been a client of BiddingForGood’s for years with a new auction opening soon.) I’m a Play Space Activity Leader. A lot of shelters set up spaces just for kids. They have activity leaders come in to play and give kids an outlet from the confined space. I volunteer once a week; in a teen mom shelter, every Thursday in Somerville. It gives them a break from the kids for a while. I also worked for Cradles to Crayons. They provide school supplies and clothing for kids in need. I also did some work with the national chapter and also worked with the national MS society. I volunteered and helped with their walk last year and this year. I also helped them with some mailings. Organizations need all sorts of help with all kinds of stuff. Volunteering your time is a great donation too.
How did you get involved there? How did you find out about the organization?
I found ads on the MBTA for Horizons with Homeless Children and on the sites Volunteer Match and Idealist.org. I was on Idealist.org back when I was looking for a job at a nonprofit. I found they also had a database for volunteers.
What advice would you give to someone interested in volunteering?
I’d direct them to Volunteer Match. Other advice would be to think about their interests and where they want to volunteer. It makes sense to find a place that means something to you and to think about you want to do to help. Also, many colleges have volunteer centers. That’s a good place to look too.
What do you like most about volunteering?
It makes me feel really good to know I’m helping someone else.
Do you have any other advice for our orgs who are seeking new volunteers?
There are only so many times you can ask your own members. It’s good to ask people outside the org. One thing organizations might not know is sororities and fraternities need philanthropy hours as part of their membership. I was in a sorority when I was in college. It’s strongly encouraged. We even had incentives sometimes for who had the most philanthropy hours. Like the winner would get the bed in the quietest part of the house. Stuff like that. Alumni could reach out to sororities and fraternities at their colleges.
I learned a lot from my conversation with Amanda. Especially about new ways nonprofits can get the word out that they need volunteers like getting listed on volunteermatch.org or idealist.org. For our organizations, it can make a huge difference for them to have volunteers who can help build the site or promote their online auctions. There are definitely people out there who want to volunteer; they just need to know where and how they can help.
BiddingForGood hit the road over the last few months, visiting 12 cities around the country to meet with fundraisers and talk about new innovations in online auctions and In-room Mobile Bidding. At every stop, there were overflowing crowds from schools and nonprofits, who were eager to hear about our Smart Auction platform and learn about how we are reinventing the silent auction.
It was a pleasure to meet so many clients, who shared their experiences using our platform. And, we loved meeting other folks not yet in the BiddingForGood family, who are thinking about how they can take their fundraising to the next level. Many clients told us that they came hoping to meet their favorite Auction Expert, who invests so much time helping them be successful with their fundraising efforts. Several organizations brought entire committees to the seminar, so that they could learn together and consider as a team how to bring new excitement to their events.
There was no shortage of questions and opinions raised by attendees. In some cities, BiddingForGood clients were a tremendous help, answering questions from the audience based on their own experiences. You can view a short video clip from the presentation – click here.
While traveling the country and meeting so many of you, we were really struck by the power of the community and how much fundraisers can learn from each other. We talk a lot about choices. There are many ways to run a successful fundraising event, and bringing people together from different kinds of organizations enabled lots of sharing of ideas and strategies.
If you would like us to visit your city later this year to talk about Smart Auctions, let us know – click here. We will consider your suggestions when we plan our next road show.
If you are still reeling from the glee of the holiday season, you may want to start to think about tax season. I hear your sighs. Although the IRS has extended the 2012 tax filing date by two days (April 17th), there is no reason to delay. There are a number of tax laws when it comes to charitable contribution deductions.
For cash donations, deductions are not allowed without receipts. In case of audit, the IRS uses three methods to substantiate charitable deductions:
• Canceled checks
• A credit card statement
• Written acknowledgement from the charity (showing the charity’s name, date of donation, and amount).
These changes are significant to philanthropists large and small. Tossing cash into the ‘ole collection plate or depositing a bag of clothing to a Salvation Army drop-box may no longer be the best idea.
What does this mean for the fundraising industry?
Nonprofit organizations holding charitable fundraising events need to be even more diligent about issuing receipts for donations of cash, items, or services.
The good news is not only do online auctions (powered by BiddingForGood) provide your generous donors the mechanism to easily donate online (the Donate Items or Donate Cash feature buttons), but they also provide a post-auction record regarding the sale of an item donation (the Donor Email feature).
This automation means: no extra work for the nonprofit, and complete tax information for donors.
Donors: Tax season is upon us. For 2012, think about making contributions via online auctions to support causes you care about. Be rest assured that your gift will be well-received by both the non-profit organization… and the IRS.
Best of luck!