Many of us are interested in volunteering, but with the demands on our time and attention these days, community service and engagement can easily be placed on the back burner. Now more than ever there is a whole range of needs out there, and it’s never been easier to get involved. It just takes a little bit of planning to make that first step, and here are a few tips that may help:
Think about your passions and interests.
It’s important to feel good about what you are doing and look forward to giving your time. Volunteer with a community, individual, or cause that you are passionate about, and decide what you are interested in doing. If you are looking for direct involvement, there are numerous organizations with opportunities available, such as mentoring students, packing food, ushering with a performing arts program, delivering meals to seniors, helping build homes, or working on a campaign for someone running for elected office. Or, you may feel ready for a leadership role on a board or board committee. Think about what will give you the motivation and energy to donate your time.
Do your research.
Do a quick Google search to find organizations in your area that may have current needs. In addition to nonprofits, most state and local governments provide volunteer opportunity listings online. You can also connect with organizations of interest and their leaders on LinkedIn or follow their other social media accounts to stay in the know. Ask family, friends, classmates, and coworkers if they are involved in community service and how they got started. See if they have connections to organizations that interest you. Many organizations will give you a tour of their facilities and welcome a chance to interact with potential volunteers. You could also schedule an appointment with the Executive Director or Board Chair of the organization to learn more about their programs , projects, and plans for the future.
Assess your bandwidth.
Sometimes volunteering doesn’t work out because we try to do too much too soon. Be honest with yourself about the other demands in your life––work, school, exercise, socializing, resting––and decide if and where volunteering can fit in. Maybe you have a couple of hours once a month when you can do something hands-on, or maybe you can perform some tasks remotely on a regular basis. Knowing your bandwidth before you jump in can help ensure the right match. After finding a potential match, be sure to get a full understanding of what will be expected of you as a volunteer. Take special note of the hours or number of meetings you are agreeing to and make sure you are comfortable that you have the time to serve and fill the responsibilities you are committing to.
Appreciate the big picture.
Besides helping others, the opportunity to serve and get involved is a benefit to you. One of the great joys in life is knowing you have been able to do something to serve others and have played a role in helping to make your community a better place to live and work for everyone.
Just do it!
After you have found a match, fill out that form, send that email, or show up to that event to give it a try. Giving your time is a gift no matter how little or how much, and once you start, it will get easier to keep it going!
Now that you are ready to dive in, we would love to hear how it goes! Please send us your volunteering/community service story to firstname.lastname@example.org
or DM us on Facebook or Instagram.
Thanks to WFS alum Fred Sears ‘60, one of the most prolific volunteers in Delaware, for his contributions to this article! Fred has been a community leader throughout the First State for the past six decades. Most recently, Fred was the President and CEO of the Delaware Community Foundation for 13 years where he encouraged individuals, businesses, and organizations to engage in long-term charitable giving to improve the lives of those in the Delaware community. Prior to his work with the Delaware Community Foundation, he had a 38-year career in banking and last served as the President of Commerce Bank/Delaware. Fred also served as the Finance Director, Director of Commerce of the City of Wilmington, and the Director of the Port of Wilmington during the early years of his distinguished banking career.
A proud member of the City Council from 1976 to 1984, Fred continued to stay politically involved throughout his career. He has served on the transition team for Mayor James Sills, co-chaired transition teams for Governor Ruth Ann Minner and New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, and chaired the Budget and Finance subcommittee for Governor Jack Markell.
In addition to this work, Sears has served as a member of the Board of Directors of more than 40 community nonprofit organizations. For his outstanding service and leadership, Fred received The Order of the First State in 2015, the highest honor awarded by the Governor (Markel) in Delaware; he was elected to the Delaware Business Leaders Hall of Fame presented by Junior Achievement; and he was honored by The State Chamber of Commerce with their highest award, The Marvel Cup Award. Fred has been honored by many other organizations, including the Goldey-Beacom College Ethics in Business Award; United Negro College Fund Distinguished Service Award; and the Wilmington Junior Chamber of Commerce Young Man of the Year Award.
A Delaware native, Fred has undergraduate and graduate degrees in Business Administration from the University of Delaware.