Volunteer! My tips on getting started and what to look out for

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Volunteer! My tips on getting started and what to look out for


In a season of tricks and treats, I’m all about the treats. I love to give! It comes second nature to me and volunteering has always been a huge part of my life, both professionally and personally.

I thought I’d share a little of what I’ve been up to and some tips on getting started if you’d like to find a place to share your talents.

Volunteering gives me a sense of purpose, makes me feel great and ignites my passions, while taking me away from that day-to-day monotony of emails, calls, work, etc. I also get to spend time with people that aren’t in my regular business circle and meet folks from all different backgrounds and interests. The fact that none of these roles “pay me” is completely unimportant, because money is not the goal.

I’ve been a Rotarian with the Upper Main Line Rotary for five years and we just held our annual Okotberfest, in which we raised $28,000 to go into a foundation, which will go toward a deserving cause. Last year, we took $5,000 of what we netted and were able to turn it into $100,000 with matching contributions to bring clean water to Honduras. Amazing! I’m proud to serve as Treasurer of this organization, as well, and I have recently been asked to join the Finance Committee at the district level.

Every month, my club (Upper Main Line) does a service project with a local group, which can be anything from harvesting fruit and vegetables from local farms for the County wide food bank to making 15,000 meal kits made of rice, soy, a vitamin and spice packet, freeze-dried vegetables for Rise Against Hunger.

I’m also an ambassador for the Main Line Chamber of Commerce and this has truly helped me build my business by simply increasing awareness of who I am and what I do. Plus, I get to be involved in fantastic opportunities to give back, like a 5K race that the Chamber held recently to raise money for scholarships for local students who are EMTs and firefighters.

I’m also a part of the Beacon Membership Committee and have been asked to speak on accounting to a sub-group of this organization because of my work there and soon will be mentoring business owners because of a connection Beacon has with an innovation center called NextFab.

By volunteering, I’m giving back to my community, while also networking AND doing business development.

So, what can YOU volunteer?

  1. Your time
  2. Materials
  3. Skills
  4. Money

If you are busy…(most of my team are moms and dads who need to work and bring in income, but also need the flexibility to be there for their children)

  1. Volunteer online! Rotary now has a “passport club” within the organization that the local clubs reach out to for certain events that offers much more flexibility than regular meetings. Look in your local area for online/less time commitment opportunities to volunteer in.
  2. Sign up for activities at your child’s school far in advance, so you can secure the time off. If you know the spring party is in March, you have plenty of time to get sitters for other children or get the time off from client work.
  3. Just pick ONE thing and do it every year. For instance, my nephew and sister-in-law just completed a 60-mile bike ride for JDRF, which supports juvenile diabetes. And I personally have done breast cancer walks to raise money (I’m now a 10+ year survivor of the disease). I even rappelled off a 31 story building (2 years in a row) to raise money for Outward Bound!
  4. Do something with the kids! Call your local retirement home and ask if you can come and sing songs with the patients, do crafts or read books. Just visit and share kindness. Teaching children to give at a young age is so vital.

If you work in the corporate world and don’t want to use a vacation day…

  1. Find out if your workplace offers a “VTO” day off. (meaning you wouldn’t have to use personal/vacation time to do a service project).

Example: “Vanguard offers crew a Volunteer Time Off (VTO) day—a paid day off every year to help their communities in any way, at any time or place they’d like.”

Many businesses offer something like this, so simply ask! Or maybe get a policy like this started at your corporation.

  1. Do a weekend event. You can search locally to find how to volunteer on a Saturday or even ongoing Saturdays, like maybe teaching morning Zumba at your local parks and rec building or running a one-day workshop on taxes at the library.
  2. Mentor young people in your office. If you can’t get away from the office, start a mentoring club with some of the younger employees and offer your help as they navigate the professional journey.

If you aren’t sure what is reputable and what isn’t…

  1. Visit Charity Navigator This site helps you find charities you can trust, ranks charities and even give tips and answer FAQS.
  2. Make sure the charity is a 501c(3) organization. Sadly, some are not and the money does not go where you think it goes. Think of all the recent stories of people setting up fake fundraisers and taking the money for themselves. And with all the recent hurricanes, the scams have been happening more and more. Do your research.
  3. Contact an existing organization. For example, Alex’s Lemonade Stand will provide you with an event kit that includes things like banners, signage, brochures and SO much more to help you hold your own successful event.

And one final tip…
Remember to always go through the proper channels to raise money for an existing organization. Using trademarked material could result in a lawsuit, even if your intentions were good ones.

If you aren’t sure where to start…

  1. Ask your family, friends and colleagues what they do to volunteer.
  2. Ask on social media or search on social media.
  3. Think of what areas you are interested in and Google it. Animal shelters, art museums, YMCAs, there are a variety of needs in your area if you just search.

Volunteering isn’t just something I like to do; it’s something I NEED to do. It fulfills me and is part of what owning a business and being able to give back is all about.