I had the opportunity to speak to a few people at our Strikes For Shelter event on their thoughts about volunteering; what had brought them to the event, why they volunteered, or conversely (and maybe more importantly), what kept them from volunteering.
It's no surprise that volunteering in Boston isn't the strongest--new data shows that fact. So what is it that keeps people away?
Time. That's the most common lament, that we simply don't have enough time. Certainly, work, school, significant others, friends, etc. all take legitimate time from our schedule and we can't and don't want to give those things up. As one person said, "I don't have the time, but I'll make the time [for things I shouldn't be doing]." And I'm guilty as the next person in making some things priorities that probably shouldn't be--do I really need to catch the season of Top Chef? Do I really care about that obscure college basketball game? Even one opportunity I recently learned about would be a great way to start the weekend before meeting up with friends on a Friday night.
Passion. Sometimes not having an issue to rally around keeps people at bay. Truthfully, if you really want to participate in something, the barriers don't seem as big. But not being focused on one issue can also be an asset in volunteering. There are so many organizations that need help and are looking for it, so if you don't have one issue you really care about, take the opportunity to involve yourself in a broad swath of nonprofits--from tutoring students to spending time with senior citizens. Some organizations look for a long term commitment, but not all. And who knows, maybe you will find that cause that really gets you going.
Opportunities. And sometimes you have the time, and you have the desire, but volunteering still doesn't happen. For me, I've struggled finding chances to get involved even though I've made time and knew what I wanted to get involved in. There are resources however (these are just a sampling): Boston Cares is a nonprofit which coordinates willing volunteers with an assortment of projects across Boston. Idealist.org is also another resource with a ton of information and opportunities from across the nation. And of course, OYFP can be a resource to you as well: Coming up on March 5, a number of organizations will get together to network and discuss their volunteer opportunities at the Spirit of Service event. But don't forget about your friends--and don't assume that because they don't talk about volunteering, they aren't doing it. Ask around--see what people are doing and tag along. And if your immediate circle of friends isn't actively involved, ask friends of friends, people at work, and family. Chances are you'll come into contact with someone who volunteers and they will be an excellent resource for opportunities you can become a part of.
So, that's enough from me. But what about you? Are you volunteering? If so, what's gotten you involved, and what's keeping you there? And if not, what's stopping you? Is it one of the three reasons above, or is it something else? Either way, let us know by leaving a comment--we'd like to hear from you.
Have a nice weekend!