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.