Wise Giving Wednesday: Volunteering

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calendar icon Apr 14, 2021

National Volunteer Week takes place from April 18th to the 24th. This provides recognition to all the individuals that help charities and others through their generous donation of time. It has been estimated by the Corporation for National and Community Service that 77.4 million people in the U.S. volunteered 6.9 billion hours of their time in 2019 which has been valued at $187.7 billion dollars. The estimates for 2020 will soon be available and it will be interesting to see what impact COVID-19 had on the volume of volunteer hours provided. There is something in the fabric of American society that has fueled the spirit of volunteerism throughout its history. Whether it was assisting neighbors through barn-raising or the volunteers that helped armed service personnel in World War I and World War II, volunteers have played a vital role in strengthening community spirit and helping those in need. Charities today have inherited this rich legacy of people seeking to assist others.

While many are motivated to volunteer, we sometimes hit roadblocks or challenges to achieve this objective. Chiefly among them is finding the “extra” time to donate. Well, that problem is certainly understandable but it can be overcome by considering the following tips when making a volunteer choice.

Pick Your Passion
If you volunteer for an organization that is addressing a cause that you really care about, that can add incentive to help. Kelley Bevis, who serves as General Counsel, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, notes in this week’s Heart of Giving Podcast, that “You have to follow your bliss, whatever you’re passionate about you’ll make time for.”

Start Small
You might begin with devoting just a couple hours per month or an hour a week. Something that you can manage without disrupting your other chores and/or work time. Volunteering does not have to involve the effort of a part-time job. Think of it as testing the waters a bit before you decide to take a swim.

Special Skills Are Especially Valued
If your profession and/or work experience provides special skills, consider offering them in a volunteer capacity. An accountant might help a small charity with its books, a plumber might be needed to construct homes for the poor, or a health care worker could lend a hand in a charity clinic. The possibilities are varied. Don’t assume it’s all about ladling soup at the homeless shelter.  

Use Your Time Wisely
Sometimes people have the right motivation to volunteer, but choose the wrong way to use it. For example, after a natural disaster strikes, some may feel like loading up a pick-up truck with water and supplies and head out to help. It you are not doing this in collaboration with an experienced disaster relief charity, you might actually result in getting in the way of planned efforts that already have systems in place to coordinate emergency assistance. Many disaster relief charities welcome and rely on volunteers during such times of need, reach out and let them know you want to assist them.

Look Before You Leap
As always, we urge volunteers, just as we do with donors that contribute funds, to check out charities before you offer your assistance. Visit Give.org to verify if they meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.  You may also want to see if the charity is registered with the appropriate state government agency in your state (usually a division of the Attorney General’s office or the Secretary of State). About 40 of the 50 states have such a requirement. You also can verify an organization’s charitable tax exempt status at this IRS link. In Canada, check with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Video of the Week

As part of our Building Trust Video Series, we are pleased to provide a video featuring Rachel Laser, President and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (a BBB Accredited Charity), an organization that works to preserve the separation of church and state through litigation, advocacy and education efforts.  This includes initiating and supporting lawsuits, providing legal counsel, as well as producing a monthly magazine, issue papers and legislative alerts.

Recent Reports

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:

Finally, remember to let us know by going to give.org/charity-inquiry if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance

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