Tips to Help You Keep Your Giving-Back Resolutions
“I resolve to _______”
“I’m going to do more of _______”
“I promise that I will ______”
How many times have we uttered those words to ourselves on Jan. 1 and then fallen just a bit short? Experts caution not to commit to making sweeping changes (that will prove overwhelming), but to reflect on the past year and set smaller, attainable goals that you can track, measure and celebrate. Whether it’s exercising more, cooking healthier meals, having more patience with your family, or something else, keep in mind that every step gets you closer to the goal of living a more complete, productive and engaged life.
One important component of a fulfilling lifestyle is volunteering. Studies show that volunteering can help reduce stress, keep you mentally stimulated, help you feel connected and provide a sense of purpose. Additionally, you can volunteer at practically any age. It sets a good example for others, and it costs next to nothing! With all of those positives, why not consider resolving to be more connected to your community?
So, where to start? There are many organizations serving different groups in the metro area, and it’s easy to pull up a list of nonprofits and be overwhelmed. Cobb Collaborative recommends beginning with your passion and what you enjoy. Many people have a cause that resonates with them from a personal experience. If you’re not sure what your passion is, then do a quick personal inventory. Do you like children and interacting with them during an activity? Have you or a family member served in the military and you want to support veterans? What articles in the newspaper do you find yourself drawn to? What stories do you hear on the news that impact you? Do you have a rescue dog and want to help other rescue animals? You may find upon reflection that you do have a specific area of concern, and you didn’t even realize it!
Some people like to volunteer in their professional “space” – it’s what they know, what they enjoy and they’re good at it. For example, teachers who serve as tutors, attorneys who perform pro bono work, IT professionals who build and maintain websites for nonprofits. Other individuals like to do something completely different. If you sit in an office all day, then being outside picking up litter or doing stream monitoring could be a refreshing change of pace. You’re more likely to derive joy and remain committed if it’s something that resonates with you.
So, now that you have the “what,” how do you find the “where?” Start by asking friends and neighbors if they volunteer at an organization or know of any place that serves the population or interest area that you have identified. Many churches have a wide variety of ministries that address basic human needs like clothing, shelter, food, education, and they partner with other local organizations. Your neighborhood school is another great place to inquire about opportunities. Try volunteering with someone you know; it’s a great way to deepen a friendship or to have fun as a family.
Once you identify an organization, there’s nothing wrong with trying it out to ensure you enjoy the experience. Maybe you always pictured yourself doing office work, but now realize that’s not where your passion lies. Be honest with the volunteer coordinator or assigned staff personnel. Please keep in mind that some organizations require an application and orientation, and most that work with children, and other vulnerable populations, will require a background check and perhaps more intensive training. Remember, this is to protect you and the clients.
It’s a good idea to volunteer at least several times before you decide whether it’s a good fit or not. A good rule of thumb is to only volunteer at the level comfortable for you. Most nonprofit organizations are happy to have an extra set of hands for even an hour or two. If you’ve never consistently volunteered before, perhaps starting with once a quarter in 2019 is an attainable goal. If that doesn’t feel frequent enough, then strive for once
a month. You will reap the benefits and can set a new goal in the future.
To help get you started, here is a list of some organizations that cover a variety of causes.
• Kennesaw Mountain National Park Trail Club – Second Saturday of each month.
• MUST Ministries – Many opportunities for individuals and groups to volunteer.
• Papa’s Pantry
• Communities in Schools – Mentors and tutors at various schools in Cobb County
• Smith Gilbert Gardens
• The Extension
• Cobb County Library
• Mostly Mutts
• CHOICES For Kids
• Teach 1 to Lead 1
• Our Pals Place
• Cobb Senior Services
There are so many organizations that would welcome the donation of your time and talents. Start with what you care about, and you will find it easy to keep this resolution all year long.
– Irene Barton, the executive director of Cobb Collaborative