Friday, June 5, 2009

Maybe it’s time to GIVE a bit more Boston…

Maybe it’s time to GIVE a bit more Boston…

Sometimes you have to hand it to Congress, at least for their creative naming of legislation. Proposed bill names are often a little self serving, i.e. the ABC act (Access to Books for Children); or they may provide a little double meaning, as in one in the news recently, the FACE act (Freedom of Access to Clinics); sometimes they even actually make sense, e.g. BUSES act (Bus Uniform Standards and Enhanced Safety), and sometimes they are just aptly named, e.g. the CAN-SPAM act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act); and, of course others make you wonder how much time and effort was spent just naming the thing, and why, e.g.the HOME-RUN act (Helping Owners Make Energy-Efficiency Residential Upgrades Now).

Fun with words aside – in April of this year, Congress passed the GIVE act (Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education). Okay, so this was later renamed in honor of our own Sen. Kennedy, but regardless the bill provides for the reauthorization of the Corporation for National and Community Service, vastly expands the AmericaCorps program, creates a social venture capital fund, and provides funding for programs to support community involvement among college-students, senior citizens, and yep you guessed it…younger, working professionals.

According to 2007 data from the Corporation, Boston residents aged 25-34 are the least likely to volunteer their time (20% participation in volunteer activities). Sound low? This is in a city that ranks 34th out of the 50 largest US cities in terms of volunteerism rates (26.4% in 2007).

Surprising maybe? This means that just 1 of every 5 of your friends in Boston is likely to volunteer their time to a local or national organization provide tutoring, mentoring, fundraising, organizing, or direct services. The median time given among young professionals? -- just 36 hours, or less than 2 days a year, about 12 Red Sox games, or the time spent watching a season of 24.

So what can we do to encourage a Spirit of Service among this age group? Aside from increased federal support for organizations, encouraging access to positive volunteer experiences may increase the likelihood of individuals developing a sustained interest in civic service.

For working professionals with competing interests, this may be easier said than realized. Still, there is no shortage of great organizations and volunteering opportunities in Boston. OYFP, for one, is among many others, such as YAVA. Private and business support for volunteering is organized through organizations such as Boston Cares. Traditional services-organizations are expanding their reach, e.g. United Way’s Young Leaders program. You can encourage your company to adopt a community-oriented component to their mission statement, that explicitly supports employee involvement. In this increasingly connected world your iphone and facebook account can do more than update your friends’ status, by plugging into a lot more.

Talk to friends, commit a couple hours, join a email listing, become involved, GIVE a little bit more, and help Boston become better than 1 in 5.

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