Donating money is as easy as sending a text message on your cell phone. Sometimes that donation just doesn’t seem like enough. You’d like to do more to help your local community or make a difference to the world at large. But time is short, and a commitment to a long-term volunteer job may seem daunting.
You might be surprised to learn that short-term or even onetime volunteer opportunities abound. Think about causes that are important to you and use these suggestions as a starting point. Then give a call to a local nonprofit and suggest a way you can help.
Here are ten ideas to help you get started:
1. Count the birds in your yard
Project FeederWatch , operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada, runs from early November through April each year. Participants periodically count the birds they see at their backyard feeders and send their counts to research scientists at Project FeederWatch. You just sign up and purchase a research kit (to help you identify birds). Then watch your feeder for two consecutive days for as little or as much time as you want. Repeat your “two-day watch” periodically and send in your bird tally.
2. Cruise your closets for animal shelter supplies
Shelters and rescue organizations can always use items that you probably have in your linen closet. Gather those clean, gently used towels and bedding and take them to your local shelter. On the way, stop and buy a bag of pet food and a couple of new toys to add to your donation. Want to go a step further? Host a small donation drive. Contact friends and relatives and pool your items.
3. Walk a dog or socialize with cats
If you can’t commit to a long-term volunteering schedule, your local animal shelter may need an extra hand when the volume of animals increases. Shelters are stressful for the animals and extra love and attention from a volunteer can make an animal more adoptable.
4. Snap a pic
Many animal shelters have images and descriptions of adoptable animals on their websites or posted around town. If you have a talent for capturing that perfect image, why not volunteer your skills to showcase local animals?
5. Clean up a local park or hiking trail
Contact your local parks department to learn about upcoming projects. Volunteers are always needed for trail clean up, weed and invasive plant removal, or other short-term projects.
6. Pitch in on vacation
If you plan to visit a state or national park this summer, your trip may coincide with a scheduled environmental project. For instance, Yosemite National Park has an apple-picking day in August. The historic apple orchards in Yosemite attract bears, which can increase conflicts between bears and humans in the campgrounds near the orchards. Check the park’s website in late July for an exact date. Go to the Natural and Cultural Resources Portal for information about volunteer opportunities in parks across the country.
7. Help out with home repairs
If you know your way around a wrench or a screwdriver, there’s probably a senior in your neighborhood who could use help with a leaky faucet or sticky door.
8. Give a lift to seniors
Some seniors need help getting to and from doctors’ appointments and obtaining medicine from the pharmacy. Organizations like Little Brothers—Friends of the Elderly SF offers the only free medical escort program to seniors in San Francisco and are always in need of more drivers!
9. Support a charity run
Even if you don’t feel up to running a marathon, you can support fundraising events in your community. For example, in the fall, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society sponsors the Light the Night walk in nearly 200 communities across North America to honor those whose lives have been touched by a blood cancer. You can help the day of the event, setting up, cleaning up, and encouraging participants.
10. Recycle your paperback books
Many of us have a bookshelf (or more) packed with old paperbacks. Check organizations (like hospitals and homeless shelters) in your area that would appreciate a new collection of books to share with clients or visitors. Think of the joy a child in a shelter would get from new books to read and share!
If you can recommend places to volunteer, please add a comment with your suggestions!