The One Hour Project: Get Involved In Community Volunteering

This post is part of The One Hour Project, in which you can spend just one hour to put your finances in a better place without a big lifestyle change, through frugality or other financial choices.

One of the things I enjoy doing is getting involved with my local community, though with two children in diapers and my other responsibilities, I don’t get to spend as much time doing it as I would like. When I first started paying attention to city council meetings and looking carefully at ways to volunteer to help youth recreation leagues and such, I mostly looked at it as a spiritually fulfilling way to spend my time. By working for the community, I was making the community a better place for everyone involved.

Over time, though, I began to see a lot of ways in which helping out in the community helped me out personally:

I connected with lots of different people. I met tons of people in the local community, many with useful skills and interesting stories to tell. I would often find that people are much more willing to talk to you and be friendly with you if they see you helping out with a youth baseball league or assisting in keeping a park clean.

I discovered resources I never knew existed. I found all sorts of public resources in my town and in ones nearby that I had no clue existed. Only by volunteering – and thus talking to a lot of people – did I find out about some of these things. Local free events, small businesses with incredibly good rates, and so on.

I spent a lot of quality, enjoyable time without any expense to myself. I got to spend a lot of time out in the fresh air doing all sorts of activities that I could clearly see enriched the lives of not only myself, but lots of others.

Obviously, volunteering projects are more than a one hour activity, and many of those activities aren’t palatable to some people. So, instead of saying “jump into a volunteer activity,” you should spend the time finding one that works for your needs and your schedule.

Here’s what you do.

First, go to VolunteerMatch and see what volunteer activities in your area come up. I looked for all volunteer activities within 50 miles and pulled up a ton of stuff for me, and I live in rural Iowa – other areas will likely pull up many more than that.

You should also contact your local park and recreation service for your town. Many towns have more tasks that need to be done than they have people to do them, from refereeing youth league soccer to cleaning up the city park.

Now that you have a huge batch to pick from, whittle it down to only the stuff that sounds fun to you. If you’re not 100% confident, go on to the next one. Look for that activity that’s right for you, not just one that sounds like it would be useful but doesn’t really get your fire going.

Hopefully, you’ve found a few activities that match your interest. Call up the organizers and see when you can volunteer. Obviously, you’ll need to find ones that can match your schedule.

After all this, you should have one or two exciting activities that fit well with your lifestyle. From here, it’s up to you to jump in and see what happens. I predict it will be more fulfilling than you think.

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  1. mamacita says:

    Volunteering isn’t necessarily without profit to the volunteer. If you invest your time in making your neighborhood a better place, you raise the value of your home.

  2. Mrs. Micah says:

    I found a great cat shelter nearby which is looking for people to play with their kittens. Playing with kittens!!!

  3. Jim says:

    Nice article.

    I try to pick things I am passionate about to volunteer my time with. Doing so, makes volunteering a very rewarding experience.

  4. Amanda says:

    Something I always mean to get around to… a good reminder. Thanks!

  5. Susy says:

    Volunteering helps us spend some time not worrying about saving & increasing income streams, because it is about giving back. Volunteering helps us achieve that balance of earning, saving, and spending. Sure we could spend the time selling something on e-bay, but what good would that do for our community/church/organization?

    It’s also a great way to meet other people with similar interests. We met some of our best friends through volunteering at a local youth camp!

  6. Angie says:

    I admit it. I’m a serial volunteer. The only bad thing about volunteering is you don’t get paid for it. haha

    But seriously, volunteering is a great and rewarding way to help others, meet people with similar interests (depending on what you’re volunteering on), or just getting to know new people.

  7. 2million says:

    I agree there are alot of intangible benefits to volunteering, largely depending on what you are doing. For instance you can learn bulding skill by volunteering at Habitat for Humanity.

  8. I have always believed in focusing my volunteering and donations to one group, because I felt that it helps make a more of a difference. Although I started volunteering to show my son that this is important, I was surprised to find the networking aspect, which helps my income. However, never push the networking for income, it will not work; go for the desire to be involved.

  9. Gayle says:

    Be careful;) you might find an activity that threatens to become your passion, as I have. All the kids are gone so now I spend my free time (and a fair amount of money) doing medical missions in Third World countries. Who knew that my fities would be so much more fun than my twenties? In fact, the frugality is just to have more money to go do more volunteer work. If it stops being fun or never was fun in the first place it is not the right volunteer activity for you.

  10. Maggie says:

    I can’t tell you how much I love volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Global Village. I have been to some truly amazing places I never would have gone otherwise: New Zealand, Romania, Poland. I’m set to lead a team to Argentina in May of 2008. I’ve met some of my best friends. But the best thing is the families. The can’t believe Americans would travel to work on their vacation. And they way they are touched. The world is my community now.

  11. 60 in 3 says:

    Not sure about other areas, but in the SF bay area we have One Brick and Hands on the Bay. Both of these are organizations that match volunteers with non profits that need their help. There’s no time commitment and you can pick and choose the events you like and which fit into your schedule. It’s a great and fun way to give a little back.

    The websites are http://www.onebrick.org and http://www.handsonbayarea.org. Both look similar to the volunteer match site you posted.

    Gal

  12. NP says:

    So ironic that this article would be on today’s email! I teach career connections in middle school and today’s topic is volunteer work! The thrust of the lesson is that community service can help you get skills that are marketable, it can be a gateway to a paying job within the volunteering concern, and it can look good on a resume or college/scholarship application. We already agreed that it was good for one’s spirit!

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