- What's your excuse for not getting involved: Not enough time?
No skills or experience you think could help anyone? Nothing nearby?
If you had information
on thousands of non-profit agencies looking for volunteers anywhere
nationwide, and also were able to choose how much time to spend,
the type of cause you want to support, and set your own hours for
volunteering, it would be hard to find a reason not to volunteer,
No more excuses. Whether
you can spend 10 hours a week or 10 minutes; whether you live on
a coast, in the mountains, on an island or on the plains; whether
you want to support the arts, the environment or social issues,
there are thousands of opportunities waiting on VolunteerMatch.
VolunteerMatch is a
non-profit Web site that serves as a clearinghouse for organizations
needing individuals to volunteer and volunteers looking for organizations
who can use their skills and experience. To date, nearly 20,000
non-profit and tax-exempt organizations have received more than
700,000 volunteer referrals through the site.
Any non-profit or tax-exempt
organization can list an unlimited number of volunteer opportunities
on VolunteerMatch. Visitors to VolunteerMatch simply enter their
ZIP code to find local opportunities. Volunteers can also search
by interest, date and keyword to generate a personally customized
list. Once an opportunity of choice is found, the interested volunteer
simply clicks on it to contact the organization and get involved.
Jan Mucklestone Fischer
is one volunteer who found "the perfect opportunity" on VolunteerMatch
-- with a twist.
Wanting to put her background
as a costume designer and fashion illustrator to good use, Fischer,
who lives in the San Francisco area, explored the VolunteerMatch
Web site two years ago, but didn't expect to find much in the design
field. To her surprise, she found what she called a "perfect match"
for her skills and interests: a small dance troupe looking for costume
design for a ballet production. She contacted the director and e-mailed
sketches of her work.
"It wasn't until the
director called me back to talk about my designs that I found out
the dance company is actually located in Maui," Fischer said. "I
had no idea I was volunteering over such a distance!"
Fischer has worked with
the troupe for nearly two years now. She traveled to Maui to visit
the site where the ballet will be staged, and in the process has
become friends with the troupe's director. If funding is approved,
her volunteer work may even evolve into a paid position.
"VolunteerMatch is fabulous
-- I have nothing but accolades for the site," Fischer said. "It's
a great way to volunteer because it's easy to use, provides flexibility,
a direct hook-up with any organization you're interested in, and
doesn't require you to divulge any personal information until you
want. I think it's especially valuable for anyone who is homebound
but has valid skills to share, because you don't necessarily have
to leave home to volunteer."
find VolunteerMatch an easy and efficient way to connect with people
who can support their efforts through volunteer activity. One example
is NetMentors.Org. Since its inception in 1999, NetMentors.Org has
recruited about half of its volunteers through VolunteerMatch.
"We have found the convenience
factor to be a big driver in finding volunteers for our program,"
says James Green, executive director. "And that's on both sides.
We recruit high school students to participate as well as mentors
to give them information and guidance as these youth begin to explore
career development mentoring to at-risk youth or first-generation
college candidates. It's free to students and allows them an opportunity
to gather "real life" information in careers as diverse as law,
information technology, medicine or any other area where mentors
can provide expertise. Currently, it reaches students primarily
in the Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. areas, but is expanding
nationwide through partnerships with several major universities
and business schools.
via e-mail from all over the nation and can devote as much -- or
as little -- time as they'd like. "If you can only spare 10 minutes
a week, that can be enough time to e-mail a student and answer some
questions," Green says. This flexibility benefits the students,
as well. "If they have demanding school work, part-time jobs or
commitments at home, they can still benefit from the mentoring relationship
on their own schedule. By taking advantage of the Internet, volunteering
doesn't have to be a big, complicated commitment."
also benefit from listing their opportunities on VolunteerMatch.
The American Red Cross, Bay Area chapter, has used the site for
more than four years, says Rita Chick, chief human resources officer
and director of volunteer resources. "We average five or six hits
a week from VolunteerMatch," she said. That amounts to 250 to 300
potential new volunteers every year. "I simply forward information
to the appropriate volunteer manager, who then follows-up with e-mail
or phone calls to check availability and qualifications, and then
sets up training."
Chick says VolunteerMatch
is a great way for interested volunteers to find out if their skills
meet an organization's needs before they make contact, and it's
also a good way to get the word out about projects and special needs
within a specific community. "If there's a local disaster or even
something like a marathon that needs volunteers, help can be coordinated
online," she says. Her Red Cross chapter generally has volunteer
opportunities for clerical help, receptionists in county offices,
instructors for first aid, CPR and babysitting classes, and presenters
for emergency preparedness workshops. "If someone calls offering
expertise that we can't use, we can generally find a group who can,
either through our own staff or through VolunteerMatch," she says.
it easy to bring volunteers and charitable organizations together
to meet the needs of their community," says the service‚s president,
Jay Backstrand. "And National Volunteer Week, April 21 - 27, gives
everyone a great excuse to log on, sign up and help out."
To find volunteer opportunities
in your area, or to learn more about VolunteerMatch, visit www.volunteermatch.org.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Volunteers, Who Needs Them?