Donating your time to a charity is just as meaningful and important as deciding to make a cash donation. However, you want to be sure that the charity you’re considering is accountable and will use your time and talent wisely. If you’ve made giving back part of your plan for this year, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends taking five steps to make sure your contribution makes an impact.
“In today’s tough economy, charities, now more than ever, need volunteers to help support their cause”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “Although volunteering can be a rewarding experience, you want to be thoughtful and do your research when donating time, just as if you were donating money.”
Much of the work that charities perform is made possible because the volunteer numbers are steady. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26.5% of the U.S. population volunteered for a charity between September 2011 and September 2012.
BBB recommends taking the five steps to make sure your volunteer experiences are worthwhile:
Identify your skills. Volunteering opportunities are available for any skill level. Consider what you’re good at and what services you’d be particularly well-equipped to provide. From stuffing envelopes to construction or even providing pro bono legal advice, you can find a good fit regardless of your education or talents.
Consider your passions. Maximize your enthusiasm for volunteering by finding an issue that resonates with your own personal passions. If you’re a runner, consider a marathon fundraiser. If you like history, look for opportunities to help out at an archeological dig. By identifying your passions, you’re more likely to stay engaged with the charity and be a more effective volunteer.
Determine your availability. Make a realistic estimate of how much time you’re willing to give. Maybe it’s just a weekend of picking up trash at a park, a week of building schools in a foreign country or maybe you’re willing to make a long-term commitment to tutoring someone to read. It’s better to volunteer the amount of time you can reasonably handle, rather than drop out in the middle of a longer commitment.
Research the charity thoroughly. Just as you would before making a cash donation, research the charity fully before you volunteer to make sure the organization has a commitment to standards and accountability. You can view BBB Wise Giving Alliance evaluations on nationally-soliciting charities for free at www.bbb.org/charity.
Commit to stick with it. Most volunteers don’t have long term goals with charities they work with. Even if your early attempts at volunteering weren’t a good fit, keep at it and look for new opportunities to give back. In a tough economy, charities need the support of volunteers more than ever.
For more advice on volunteering and to view charity evaluations on soliciting organizations, visit www.bbb.org/charity. To report a fraud or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373.