Foresters volunteer helping to build a playground

Ten inspired ways to give back

Volunteering can help out a wide range of causes, make you feel good and possibly even lengthen your life. A review of 40 studies on the health effects of volunteering found that helping others on a regular basis reduced early mortality rates by 22 percent when compared to a control group.1 But the best reason to volunteer is quite simply that it helps to build a better community and society.

When it comes to volunteering opportunities, the options are endless. Just plug your location and interests into volunteer matching websites such as VolunteerMatch.org which can give you a list of options. Here are 10 innovative ways to give back that may not be on your radar.

  1. Fit it in when you can. We know, we know: time is scarce. The good news: you don’t need a big block of time to volunteer. Enter micro-volunteering; basically, flexible volunteer opportunities that don’t require endless hours or a long-term commitment. You might, for example, read an expiry label for a visually impaired person via live video chat (Be My Eyes), register your daily walk, biking trip or run to earn money for charity (Charity Miles), or take part in a citizen science project by counting the birds in your garden (Zooniverse).
  2. Find your inner culture vulture. Are you passionate about theatre, music, art or dance? Volunteering with an arts organization may help you get experience in the field or simply enjoy performances gratis. If you live in a major city, the opportunities will be endless, but even smaller centres may need help with amateur theatre or concert performances. Many urban centres have websites set up specifically for arts volunteers. Just search the name of your city and ‘arts volunteer.’
  3. Volunteering abroad can give you a deeper insight into the country you’re visiting; immersing you in the culture and helping you connect to the people. It can also be tremendously rewarding to feel you’ve had a hand in, say, preserving the coral reef in Madagascar, reintegrating elephants into their natural habitat in Thailand, or bringing in the harvest at an organic farm in return for food and shelter (WWOOF). Check out gobaroad.com for a list of organizations offering meaningful travel experiences.
  4. Piggyback on a company-wide effort. Many corporations make it easy for volunteers, setting up partnerships with charities and offering time off to fulfill charitable commitments. For example, Foresters Financial supports hundreds of community projects and provides many opportunities for members and their families to help out every year. Choose volunteer opportunities that fit your inclination and available time and encourage your kids to log volunteer hours for school. Even better, children who participate may increase their eligibility to receive a Foresters scholarship.
  5. Ask not what your community can do for you… You don’t have to go far to find a chance to help out, whether delivering healthy food to seniors through Meals on Wheels, helping kids overcome reading problems at your local school or cleaning up the neighbourhood park. Just pick the thing you’re passionate about and search on VolunteerMatch or All For Good.
  6. Use your skills for the greater good. Non-profits and other social enterprises can use your talents in technology, finance, marketing and human resources. MicroMentor, for example, allows you to share business or technical expertise with entrepreneurial businesses and Evergreen (Canada) uses skilled environmental volunteers to help build green cities.
  7. If I had a hammer… If you can wield a hammer or a paintbrush with aplomb, your talents would be welcome at organizations such as Habitat for Humanity (which builds homes for low-income families in the U.S., Canada and Europe, as well as other countries around the world) to KaBOOM! (which builds playgrounds for kids). Since 2006, Foresters alone has invested over $13 million with KaBOOM!, to build safe play spaces for kids across the United States and Canada. Foresters will complete its 150th playground build in 2018.
  8. Virtual volunteering. Let your fingers do the walking. With virtual volunteering you can commit your time where you want and when you want. Opportunities include helping a charity with website design or support, making fundraising phone calls or copywriting. To find a good fit, try searching the keywords “virtual volunteering” on VolunteerMatch.
  9. Get crafty. If you can’t watch the telly without wielding a pair of knitting needles or a crochet hook, consider sharing the warmth by crafting a hat or blanket, or sewing a dress for a child in need.
  10. Be the host (or hostess) with the most. Never under-estimate the value of a warm welcome or a hot meal. To date, Foresters members have supported over 30,500 families by hosting dinners, baking cookies and assembling care packages for children with serious illnesses or disabilities and their families through Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Not your cup of tea? Most cities offer Greeter Programs (check out the Global Greeter Network) that allow you to share your love for your city with a tourist or newcomer.

Disclaimer:

The volunteering opportunities and organizations specified above are for informational purposes only. All company or organizational names may be trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any Foresters Financial affiliation with, or endorsement by, unless expressly stated.

1. http://healthland.time.com/2013/08/23/helping-others-helps-you-to-live-longer

2. https://www.thebalance.com/becoming-a-virtual-volunteer-4138357

416142 CAN/US/UK (04/18)

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Camilla Cornell

Camilla Cornell is an award winning freelance writer. She writes about all aspects of personal finance, from the real cost of raising kids to budgeting, insurance and retirement planning. Her articles have appeared in The Globe and Mail, Financial Post, MoneySense and Today's Parent, among other publications.