There are times in life when even the most generous among us feel like we don't have an extra minute to spare. We may have to deal with careers or family responsibilities that make it nearly impossible to commit to intensive or ongoing volunteer gigs.
Good news: you don't have to give up contributing to the world or your community because it's tight for time. There are many one-time volunteer opportunities that only take a few minutes or a few hours to complete and do not always require you to be on site. Call it micro volunteering. Here are some ways to make a significant difference when you can't commit to large amounts of time or regular volunteer dates.
Try giving, automatically
If you can't waste a minute, consider providing opportunities that happen in the background as you go about your daily life. For example, you might consider using a search engine like Goodsearch that donates a penny to charitable causes for every search you perform. Or shop online with a service like Giftfluence that automatically donates a percentage of the sales from more than 1,000 major stores to charity.
Donate while shopping
One way to give back when you're tight on time is to shop online with a service that automatically donates a percentage of what you spend.
Most of us have bits of time here and there that can be used for charitable purposes without much effort. For example, with a click of the mouse you can always donate money to the cause of your choice. Or you can offer supplies and used goods to churches, charities, or charity thrift stores. Many of these groups even allow you to schedule a free home pickup so you don't have to drive yourself. Another opportunity to passively give: spread awareness of important causes or worthwhile charities to friends and acquaintances via email or social media.
If you want to roll up your sleeves and contribute a little more than money or used items, but don't have time to drive yet or need to keep your schedule flexible, consider virtual volunteering. With just a computer, tablet or mobile phone, you can provide personalized and practical help to others from the comfort of your living room, during your lunch break at work, or even while queuing at the bank.
The best part about these opportunities is that they allow you to use the specialized skills you already have or want to develop. Examples include translating English documents for nonprofits, designing brochures for charities, flagging banned ivory items on Craigslist to stop elephant poaching, and helping YouTube video producers create better captions to help deaf and hard of hearing people. You can find many digital volunteer opportunities on sites like volunteerdigital.org fundacionvicenteferrer.org DoSomething.org and OnlineVolunteering.org (a free service of the United Nations Volunteers program). You can also go directly to organizations looking for volunteers in the home, such as the Smithsonian Institution, which recruits history buffs to transcribe historical documents to make them more accessible to the public; eBird.org, which collaborates with bird enthusiasts to track bird populations and migration patterns; Be My Eyes, an application that enables sighted volunteers to help visually impaired people around the world navigate their surroundings and perform visual tasks through a live video connection; o I Could Be, which recruits volunteers to guide children at risk online.
A once-a-year fundraising event, such as a bake sale, is a great way to contribute when you don't have time for an ongoing volunteer commitment.
Choose an opportunity to give once a year or seasonally. You don't have to be a member of the board of directors of a local charity for three years or commit to service projects once a week to make a difference in your community. Many organizations - including libraries, schools, churches, sports clubs, homeless shelters, and historical societies - sponsor one-time events like holiday cookie sales, annual service auctions, or community bike rides that rely heavily on volunteers. Another way to give back without a continuous time commitment is to help out at annual local events, such as a music festival, marathon, cultural event, or conference. For a small number of services, you not only get the satisfaction of giving, but you also get free admission and lots of fun networking opportunities.
Help as needed
Natural disasters and accidents seem to happen every day, which means there is unfortunately no shortage of short-term opportunities to help others in your local community and elsewhere in the world. For example, you can give food and clothing to flood or fire victims or help with storm cleanup efforts. Another idea is to organize a 5K fundraiser or donate blood. Connect with the Red Cross or other disaster relief groups to find spontaneous opportunities to communicate. Of course, you can also take a closer look at home. Assist a neighbor in need by offering a home cooked meal or a trip to the doctor.
You already make time for your family, friends and other activities. Why not combine these activities with volunteering? Here are some ideas.
• Use voluntary incentives from your employer. Many companies offer employees paid time off to volunteer. Which means that you can do good during the work day, and get paid, without taking the time of your personal life. If your employer does not offer voluntary incentives, ask management to create a program.
• Vacation volunteer.
Even the most time-bound workaholics often take vacations throughout the year. Why not accomplish two things simultaneously by infusing your getaway time with a little altruism? Organizations like GlobeAware and GoEco offer short-term “voluntourism” opportunities to travel the world, including places like Vietnam, Peru, Romania, Indonesia and Ghana. You have plenty of free time to see spectacular sights and interact with local people in ways that you wouldn't during a regular resort vacation, all while helping to build new houses, plant crops, create drinking water systems, teach English and caring for rescued elephants
• Be social.
Why not merge friend time with helping time? You and your friends can take a volunteer vacation together (see the tip above) or try something closer to home, like helping out at a soup kitchen or walking the dogs from a shelter. Or if your friends aren't interested, look for activities that allow you to connect with new people. For example, DoGood Bus offers monthly four-hour community walks that give volunteers plenty of time to socialize while helping local charities.
• Get your family involved.
Maybe you already feel guilty for not spending enough time with your children. To be further away, no matter how worthy the cause, seems impossible. Fortunately, you don't have to choose between family time and helping time. There are many volunteer activities that busy parents can do with their children, such as planting trees, serving meals at a soup kitchen, raising a service dog, or starting a community garden. Not only will you forge deeper bonds with your children, but you will also instill them with a sense of compassion and community responsibility.
• Team up with your pet.
Believe it or not, you and your furry (or feathered) baby can make the world a better place together. For example, you can visit a nursing home or participate in a fundraising walk. Which means that you will never have to leave your animal behind to help you again.
Original article (in English)