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How You Can Make A Difference

Joe Love

Most people don’t awaken in the morning and consciously decide that today is the day to become a better person. Generally, most people want to be better citizens, but they don’t consciously put together a plan for becoming a better person.

However, current trends indicate that this could be changing. Volunteerism, one of the best ways to become a better person, is up. Today there seems to be a heightened sense that our social fabric is fraying; that standard procedures and institutions are ineffective at solving problems; that individuals can make a difference. Whether its due to frustration, a sense of duty, or some other reason, more people, particularly more young people are responding to the need to volunteer by donating their time to a variety of charities and causes.

Recent surveys conducted by various philanthropic organizations have shown that half of all Americans over the age of 18, now say that they participate in some kind of volunteer service. These studies also revealed that when people become involved in helping someone in a state of need, they also enhance their own lives in many ways and experience heightened feelings of self-worth.

Even though 50 percent of adult Americans donate some time and effort to volunteer activities, plenty of volunteer opportunities go unfilled. The two most frequently cited reasons for not volunteering are: (1) “I’m too busy” and (2) “Nobody asked me.” Conversely, the number one reason people give for volunteering is because someone asked them to. In short, it’s a communications issue. People who haven’t been asked need to be nudged. People who say they have no time need a bigger nudge.

Most volunteering is done passively. In other words people don’t select charities based on need. Rather, they do it based on tradition or what kids are doing. For example, if a child comes home with a note asking his or her parents to participate in the PTA, there is a good chance they’ll do it because it’s what is expected. Or they’ll buy Girl Scout cookies or help with their child’s paper drive. It’s a very passive thing. It’s charity work, but it doesn’t take much thought or effort.

If you’re thinking about making an active commitment to a cause or charity, the following guidelines will help you make your choice.

* Think about how much of a commitment you are willing to make. How much free time do you have? How can you fit a charity or cause into your schedule? What type of activity can you perform in the time allotted? Can you devote time to it consistently?

* Do some research into what volunteer work is out there. And do some soul-searching. Don’t volunteer just because someone asked you to. Assemble a list of charities or causes that appeal to you. Find something that truly interests you and meets your needs.

* Determine in advance whether you want to volunteer your professional services or whether you’d prefer to perform an activity unrelated to your profession. For example, if you’re an accountant, you may not want to do any number crunching for a charity organization. Instead, you many want to get involved in an activity where you have direct contact with children or the elderly.

* Before choosing your charity or cause, consider the environment in which you would be working. Do you want to perform your service from your home, or do you want to go to another site? Do you want to work alone, or would you prefer a room packed with other volunteers? Do you want to provide expertise in a meeting, or plant trees with an environmental group?

* Consider any other needs or requirements you might have. Are you looking for friendships with people of similar interest? Are you looking for physical activity? Do you want to learn or be culturally stimulated? Or do you simply want the joy that comes from doing something for someone?

* Consider performing volunteer services with a friend. That way, you can share rides, compare notes, brainstorm and enjoy each other’s company.

* Know when you’ve had enough. You can burn out on a charity just like you can a job. Don’t get stuck in a rut. You can switch to another service group or charity. In fact, switching gears every once in a while will keep you fresh and expand your knowledge.

* Remember to have fun when volunteering. Sure, charities are very serious about their cause, but even sacred cows like to have a laugh.

Every person has a moral obligation to contribute to the well-being of others. You can choose to live in your own little world, but you do have a responsibility to help make this planet a better place to live. Understand that even if your time and money are sacred, there are still many ways you can contribute.

Many worthy activities requiring limited time and no money can be performed on an individual basis. How about volunteering to answer phones for a local fundraising telethon? Or volunteering to give blood? Or serving as a volunteer usher for a theater? Or repairing books for a local library? Or how about contacting your congressional representative to let him or her know your feelings and concerns?

There are many people who have great intentions but who feel they don’t have the kind of skills needed to work or communicate with people in need. And there are people who simply don’t want to spend time with others. Non-profit organizations understand this. And as you may have guessed they won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Non-profit organizations definitely need money, no doubt about that. But volunteer services go much further. Warm bodies can accomplish so much more. And volunteers can help raise money when their non-profit organization needs it.

Big business has gotten more into volunteerism. For example, some companies adopt high schools or senior homes; others opt for literacy programs or community clean-up programs. But while some companies have made some very significant contributions, corporate participation has a long way to go. Only a handful of American corporations sponsor volunteer activities in which employees offer expertise and guidance to a particular cause.

Furthermore, big companies tend to choose safe activities without the input of employees. They also tend to control the amount of time that employees spend working on behalf of the company cause. And what about the motive behind the participation of big corporations? Are we going to see these companies patting themselves on the back in a commercial, milking the publicity for all its worth?

More forward-thinking companies would opt for a different version of public involvement by allowing their employees to choose their own activities, then sanction time away from work for them to participate.

Companies today, both large and small have a moral responsibility to give something back to the community. Progressive companies know that if they allow employees to choose their own charities, they’ll attract better employees. They’ll be recognized as companies that improve the quality of life in the community. They’ll serve as catalysts by encouraging employees to contribute their knowledge and skills to a cause.

It doesn’t matter what the cause is, as long as it makes a positive contribution to the world. Everyone should have at least one or two causes, that are near to their heart, some issues that strike a chord.

It’s increasingly clear that drugs, gangs, illiteracy, poverty, crime, and the breakdown of the family puts every aspect of society at risk. And it is also clear that government and social groups aren’t up the task of solving these problems. It’s not their fault; they need a broader network of helping hands. Everyone thus needs to have a sense of responsibility and stewardship for the community.

Volunteering for non-profit organizations is a powerful way in which you can make a difference, and you have the total freedom to choose your causes. It’s one way you have to make changes on your own terms.

And the result is you become a better person because of it. When you become an active volunteer you will effect some kind of positive change not only for someone else but also within yourself. Create a vision today of a better society and help bring it to life by volunteering.

Copyright©2005 by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

Joe Love draws on his 25 years of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and achieve total success. He is the founder and CEO of JLM & Associates, a consulting and training organization, specializing in personal and business development. Through his seminars and lectures, Joe Love addresses thousands of men and women each year, including the executives and staffs of many of America’s largest corporations, on the subjects of leadership, self-esteem, goals, achievement, and success psychology.

Reach Joe at: joe@jlmandassociates.com

Read more articles and newsletters at: http://www.jlmandassociates.com

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