Dan Shapley the news editor from the The Daily Green.com, brings up a very interesting idea of making volunteerism synonymous with unemployment.

A volunteer-for-benefits program for unemployed workers would:
1. inject money into the economy;
2. invest directly in local communities;
3. support nonprofit organizations;
4. increase community service; and,
5. cost taxpayers little beyond what Congress has already committed to spend.

I think there is a sixth point that should be added.  Volunteering opens up a potential vast network of leads.  Volunteering is a great way to meet people and make connections in an industry or company where you want to work.  You can also get an idea if that industry is right for you.  In addition, there are skills you can learn that can help make you more valuable for that job opportunity that becomes available.  Don’t underestimate the power of networking through volunteerism.

See also: Volunteer, and help your career.

Volunteers Helping the City

February 13, 2009

The San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders is looking to volunteers to help the city through these difficult times according to Helen Gao, a Union-Tribune Staff Writer.

Sanders is spreading that message as the city faces budget shortfalls that could exceed $100 million in coming years. In his State of the City address last month, he announced a goal to double the ranks of volunteers to offset cutbacks in city services.

 Turning to volunteers during difficult times

Turning to volunteers during difficult times

There are thousands giving their time or money in San Diego but there are many challenges faced when trying to figure out where volunteers can serve when some jobs require special skills or training.  The result of the hard work that goes into organizing the volunteer programs and the volunteer work is very rewarding to the community.

  • Friends of the San Diego Public Library raised more than $254,000 in fiscal year 2007-08 to benefit the system. The money has paid for books, rugs for children’s reading areas and supplies for craft workshops.
  • The Police Department also depends heavily on free labor to supplement its operations. Volunteers take minor-crime reports over the phone, direct traffic at accident scenes and comfort victims.
  • The department’s Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol, highlighted by the mayor in his State of the City speech, averages 450 to 500 members.  Retirees in uniforms make welfare checks on shut-ins, patrol around schools and issue citations to those who park illegally in disabled stalls, among other duties.

Volunteers who give their time or money provide the much needed support to our libraries, parks, police and fire departments.  We need to continue doing our part for our communities especially through these tough times.

Sara Marston from the Washington Post reports on Montgomery County residents and how they spent their time volunteering for their community.  Thousands of residents volunteered with the Yes Montgomery Can! campaign in spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Day but  they also aim to sustain the spirit of service.

The countywide effort, inspired by President Obama’s call for a new spirit of service and sacrifice, kicked off the third weekend in January and will continue indefinitely. Activities included the county’s annual King Day projects as well as new service events, food drives, volunteer canvassing and other community activities.

Adams met with other county officials Friday to discuss the campaign’s future and said plans will be rolled out over the next few months.  “There will be bigger plans that will have a huge potential impact,” he said.

Their campaign has been successful in recruiting 500 volunteers, collecting donations and a food drive for the Manna Food Center, which was enough to feed more then 500 hungry families for a month.  This story is truly inspiring! Residents of Montgomery County have set a great example in contributing to a meaningful cause.  In addition, they are fulfilling Obama’s call for a new spirit of service not only for Martin Luther King Jr. Day but beyond.

Volunteers are rallying together to raise awareness for the number one killer of women – heart disease.

Go Red For Women celebrates the energy, passion and power we have as women to band together to wipe out heart disease and stroke.

The American Heart Association provides additional ideas and opportunities for volunteer involvement:

  • Go Red Party
  • Wear Red Day: Friday, 2/6
  • Paint the town Red
  • Community Outreach
  • Thank You Squad

Sometimes volunteering or service can be a simple act of getting involved and sharing the information you have. Do your part and share the facts!  Wear red this Friday, Feb. 6!

America, Serve!

January 28, 2009

The New York Times takes Barack Obama’s “new era of responsibility” one step further by calling for The Moment for National Service:

Now is the moment for the new president and Congress to harness the sense of idealism and unity evident amid the huge crowds that massed in the nation’s capital by greatly expanding the opportunities for sustained and productive national and community service.

The Serve America Act invites participation in the “spirit of service” by people of all income levels and ages, in 2009 and beyond. We applaud Obama’s commitment to the service agenda, and perhaps even a Public Service Academy.

Kelley Holland’s New York Times piece on volunteers and professionals points out that

Volunteer work can help unemployed professionals keep their spirits up, make new contacts or even to try a new field.

“Three-quarters of people find jobs through being out there, engaged and meeting people,” said John A. Challenger.

However, if volunteering remains a high-commitment activity, this trend will continue: “More than a third of the 61.2 million who volunteered in 2006 didn’t donate any time the next year.” [source: Corporation for National and Community Service]

Most professionals want to volunteer, at every stage of our careers. What we need are more high-impact, low-commitment opportunities to serve.

As the New York Times article points out, the benefits of volunteering to professionals are substantial, and include:

  1. Learning new skills and improving existing skills.
  2. Making new contacts and deepening existing contacts.
  3. Keeping our minds sharp by working in a different environment than we’re used to.

The benefits of volunteering to people entering (or re-entering) our careers are also substantial, and include:

  1. Learning new skills and making new contacts.
  2. Keeping our spirits up while we look for jobs.
  3. Offering new items to include on our resumes, that embody our values and showcase our commitments and follow-through, and that we have a service-oriented attitude.

In both cases, people can contribute something meaningful to a cause we believe in, and also benefit our careers while doing so. Volunteers and careers belong together, like chocolate and peanut butter.

Everybody can serve.

January 9, 2009

Like MLK, the folks at ServiceNation and USA Service have genuinely inspired us.

Find us on Facebook!


Everybody can serve!

Joyce and I spent a lot of time talking this week about where the time for volunteering comes from in the lives of Americans. Joyce said to me,

Volunteering actually competes with going to the movies or playing a videogame or futzing around on Facebook for a couple of hours, but most volunteer applications are built on the assumption that volunteering competes with a full-time job.

I agree that for most Americans, volunteer time comes out of leisure time. When I get up on Saturday morning, I sometimes think to myself, “Do I want to see a movie?” If so, I check the listings, and find a movie I think I would enjoy.

Sometimes I go alone. Sometimes I go with my wife. Sometimes I go with friends. Sometimes I go with professional colleagues. Sometimes it’s a matinee, and sometimes it’s at night. Sometimes I don’t like the movie, but usually I enjoy it. Recently I’ve enjoyed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire. And once I leave the theater, I am happy and go back to my busy working life.

I agree with Joyce that volunteering should be the same way. Find something that interests you. Go do it alone, or with a loved one, or with friends, or with professional colleagues. Spend a few hours. And once you leave, be content and go back to your busy life.

Everybody has leisure time. So everybody can serve.

If we all do this — even just a few hours a year — our country will be a better place. The world will be a better place.

Pledge to serve, and you too can be great.

And then make 2009 a year in which you volunteer. Because when you volunteer, you serve. And when you serve, you can be great.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said,

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.

In 2009, many people will serve. Colin Powell endorses a new service initiative USAService.org that will act as a Craigslist for service opportunities. I myself have pledged to serve at least 50 hours this year. And we at Renkoo hope you pledge to serve, too.