By Rebecca Niblett
People are more and more busy these days and it can be hard to find time to volunteer. Even harder is finding the time and energy to search out that perfect volunteer opportunity and location. And then, there is the fear – what if I make a commitment to volunteer for an organization and then I get busy or something comes up and I can’t make it?
I struggle with these questions a lot, both personally as someone who wants to volunteer, and as a volunteer coordinator trying to recruit volunteers to help out at Gamiing.
But, working with volunteers, I have found some answers to these issues. I wanted to share these answers to help others in the same position as me. So this is my list of short term (like 5 to 15 minutes), one time, or low commitment volunteering ideas:
- Write a letter, article, or review of the organization online, for a local paper, a newsletter, or for the organization to post on their website testimonials page. Letters to the editor or your local paper praising a service the organization offers, or an event they held could be helpful. Or, find the organization on some of the many review/listing sites online and write a positive review. Write an article about your trip or experience with the organization for your school paper or company newsletter.
- Take some photos or film of important stuff the organization has or does (like for Gamiing you could photograph the property and wildlife you see on it, or events that we have). Post these photos online, on the organization’s social media sites, send them a link to the photo/video, email them photos or digital video files, or mail or drop off hard copies in person.
- Create a mini fundraiser for the organization with your family and friends. This could be anything from a penny drive (collect the pennies from coworkers’ change), to providing a pot of homemade coffee rather than store bought and asking coworkers to donate the money they would have spent on coffee, to a penalty jar (swear jar) where every time a family member breaks a rule (swears, drives instead of walks somewhere, eats something off their diet, buys lunch instead of packing their own…) they must put 10 or 25 cents in a jar, to asking people to give donations rather than gifts for your birthday. Be creative and have fun with it!
- Content curration for social media. This role is one where a longer term commitment might be helpful, but where the time commitment can be as small (or large) as you want it to be. This is also something you can do while you are doing other tasks online. A content curator picks a topic or two that they are interested in, that meshes well with the organization they are volunteering with. Whenever they come across interesting content online (in blogs, newspapers, articles, other sites) they either post the link directly on the organizations social media sites (tweet it, post on facebook etc.) or send the links to someone at the organization in charge of social media content for their use. (Gamiing is looking for some content currators so if this appeals to you email me at email@example.com)
- Even shorter and with less commitment – tweeting, posting, talking about, and passing on information about an organization can be a huge help. See that an organization is having a fundraising event that you think looks fun? Tweet about it to your friends, or phone someone who might be interested. Pass on links to an organization’s website to friends with similar interests. Encourage your friends to like their facebook page. Replace your profile pic with the organization’s logo. The organization may never know that you have done it, but trust me, they will be happy that you did.
- What about in person stuff? Well at Gamiing for example we always need help with the nursery and grounds. Can’t commit to a long term regular schedule of volunteering? Why not talk to the Volunteer Coordinator or someone on staff about little tasks you could do whenever you have time. At Gamiing that might be weeding plants at the nursery on your way to hike on our trails. Or, picking up litter, or fallen sticks from the trail to keep it clear while you hike. Or report a problem with the trails or grounds to staff (such as a tree fallen across a trail).
- Another idea to help out an organization is to print out a few (like 1 to 10) posters or flyers (contact someone at the organization to get a digital file) and post them at your school, gym, church, club, rec centre, library, work place, or other places you frequent. Gamiing has several posters that we would love to see posted around the local communities.
- If the organization doesn’t have a good poster or flyer why not offer to design it for them? Gamiing can always use help with posters and flyers for upcoming events and our regular programs.
- Make something the organization can use (it’s a good idea to talk to them first about what you want to make). Many organizations need to send a lot of thank you cards to donor and other people, why not have your kids help to make a set of thank you cards they could use? Or, some organizations give out gifts or meals to people in need – why not decorate some bags for those gifts? Artistic? Why not draw some images to use in colouring contests, or for kids to colour at programs/camps?
- Use a microvolunteering website like Sparked.com to find one time/low commitment volunteer opportunities. There are lots of opportunities with lots of different organization to do everything from review a webpage, to design a logo, to draft a letter and more.
Gamiing and a lot of similar small not for profit organizations are in need of your help. But, you don’t have to give them a huge time commitment to be helpful. Volunteering can be easy, fun, and fast!
One note of caution: don’t be surprised if you get hooked on volunteering and find that you are spending more time than you planned!
If you are interested in helping Gamiing with any of these or in another volunteer role check out the website or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca Niblett, Volunteer Coordinator
Gamiing Nature Centre