Volunteerism is not an accident

I remember many times through college and as I started my career, I would have people ask, “Why did you start volunteering?”

The truth is that I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t volunteering.  I was raised in a family where I played in the kid’s room at the domestic violence shelter while my mom was in a board meeting.  I remember ringing bells with my dad for the Salvation Army and going bowling on Saturday’s with individuals with developmental disabilities (I needed the bowling lane bumpers as much or more than them).  So, naturally, as I grew up, I continued to volunteer in the community, because it was part of life.

I don’t think it was an accident that my parents raised me to volunteer.  They made the intentional decision to involve me in volunteering and expose me to others in our community that needed a helping hand.  I am thankful this was a priority for my parents and I encourage others with children to make this a priority for their families.  By involving children in volunteer activities at an early age, parents show their children how they can be involved and contribute to their community.

As the leader of a nonprofit organization, I now see young families bring their children to our volunteer activities.  By providing “family friendly” volunteer opportunities, nonprofit organizations can help families instill the value of volunteerism in their children.

Not all nonprofit organizations can involve families in direct service volunteer opportunities.  Sometimes, nonprofit organizations need to be creative in developing family friendly volunteer opportunities.  Three types of potential volunteer activities for families include:

  1. Thank other volunteers:  Provide opportunities for families to create thank you cards for other volunteers or serve food together at a volunteer recognition event.
  2. Public relations:  Involve families in representing your organization at parades, community festivals, volunteer fairs or neighborhood events.
  3. Office Support:  Create opportunities where families can support administrative duties such as stuffing envelopes, cleaning an office or landscaping outside the office.

By supporting family volunteer opportunities at nonprofits, you can help develop the next generation of volunteers.

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About Dr. Sarah Wolin Mackey

Putting theory into practice at nonprofit organizations.
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