5 Ways to Volunteer You Never Knew About
Did you know members of the military community volunteer at a higher rate than the general U.S. population? Three times higher, in fact. According to Blue Star Families 2016 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 73% of respondents reported volunteering within the last year.
At some point, you’ve most likely volunteered at a unit family day, a squadron holiday party, or were part of a food train when your neighbor had their baby. Maybe you’ve used your marketing education to help promote a base initiative, or used those killer networking abilities to help build a volunteer corps inside the gates of your installation.
But what happens when you bring your skills and talents into your civilian community?
The Department of Defense says 70% of married, active duty service members live “outside the gates,” so it’s no surprise that 84% of military families volunteer in their local community, too.
People volunteer their time and energy for many different reasons, and you’re no exception. Whether you’re building up your resume, looking for something new and fun to do, trying to make friends, or you’re just in the business of serving others, we’ve got you covered with ideas to volunteer and give back to the community near your base.
For the Serial Volunteer
If you’ve been volunteering with your service member’s unit for a while, chances are you’re looking to switch things up a bit. Head over to Volunteer Match to find opportunities working with animals, kids, the arts, human rights, education and more—all in your local community!
For example, we did a quick search for the Washington D.C. area and found over 1,300 short-term opportunities, like judging a science fair, and long-term gigs, like story-telling at the Smithsonian, and even virtual opportunities to become a mentor.
For the Pro-Bono Volunteer
Pro-Bono volunteering is donating professional skills specific to your career or field of study. For example, if your education is in the social sciences, you may have helped a local non-profit construct a survey at some point.
Since military families are forced to relocate every few years, spouses often spend a lot of time trying to find new employment. While you’re waiting, why not use your professional skills to make a difference with Catch a Fire? Their goal is to connect talented professionals to meaningful Pro-Bono experiences. Whether you’re looking for a quick project to add to your resume, or need a short consulting gig to stay relevant in your field, you want to know your time is being well spent. This volunteer opportunity actually tells you the amount of money the organization is saving thanks to your help ($750).
For the Virtual Volunteer
We live in a 24/7 digital world, and that includes volunteering! This is especially helpful to members of the military community who may not have the time (or the childcare) to make it to events outside the gates.
Do you find it’s easier to connect with people online? Do you have a passion for certain causes? Maybe you’re a blogger or a WordPress guru. If so, the United Nations (UN) is looking for someone like you! After a quick search on Idealist, we found the UN’s volunteer program is searching for someone to help maintain the WordPress site 1-5 hours a week for a partner nonprofit organization. You could volunteer for the UN from the comfort of your own home!
For the Micro-Volunteer
If you just don’t have the bandwidth to volunteer regularly, or can’t commit to a specific time or date because of erratic schedules, consider trying micro-volunteering.
According to Help at Home, micro-volunteering is a way to give back in bite-sized ways without having to make a real commitment. Their motto is “Micro Effort, Macro Impact.” Micro-volunteer opportunities take 30 minutes or less. Chances are, you ‘micro-give’ regularly when a friend calls you to unload after a bad day, or when you hold the door open for someone at the grocery store. But Help at Home boasts some pretty interesting micro-opportunities.
For example, you could spend one minute signing a petition, or 30 minutes participating in a research project. One opportunity asks that you record your baby laughing and answer some follow-up questions for a project on understanding emotional development in babies.
BONUS! Getting Your Kids and Teens Involved
Growing up in a culture of service, your military kids and teens are no strangers to giving back to their community. They’re well-traveled, learn things many of their civilian peers haven’t learned, and have unique perspectives and skills that can be used in and outside the gates of their military community.
Today’s teenagers live in a digital world filled with cell-phone applications and emojis, so why not put that to good use? Chances are your military teen is knee-deep in social media culture, so let’s encourage them to give back with a modern-day twist!
It’s all about the hashtag today, and social media campaigns are everywhere. At DoSomething.org, they’ve found a way to connect 5.5 million young people to help be the change they wish to see in the world. They can either participate in a current campaign or create one of their own!
For example, the Thumb Wars campaign created awareness around the dangers of texting while driving by giving away two pairs of ‘thumb socks’ to pass on to friends and family members so they can’t text while they drive. Maybe your military teen could create a campaign for our troops?
If you’ve got younger school-aged military kids, take a look at GenerationOn. They have many volunteer ideas and opportunities for kids of all ages! For example, this activity will allow your military kid to think about kids their own age who may not have the resources of a military community. By doing one thing within their control, it can promote further conversations about bigger issues and giving back more in the future.
Want to volunteer both in and outside of the gates? We’d love to have you as a member of our national volunteer team! Come be a part of the advocacy process!
Posted August 8, 2017