There is always a bit of mystery when it comes to donating money, isn’t there? Some part of you wants to know where that dollar that you just agreed to give to children in need is actually going. Is it actually going to feed a child, help build a school or clothe a veteran, or just line the pockets of a high up executive? While it’s true that some charities are better than others, there is an air of mystery to the act of donating money no matter where you’re sending it–it simply isn’t feasible to keep track of every dollar you send and where it’s really going. Websites like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch monitor, track and grade charities around the country to help philanthropists determine the best way to go about giving their money for maximum impact.
One thing that sites like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch miss, however, is the one surefire way to make sure that your philanthropic deeds go exactly where you want them to: by volunteering.
Volunteering is an often-overlooked means of giving back to charities and communities. Not only can you ensure that your time is well spent and helping the people you expect it to, but you’ll get the added benefit of actually seeing the impact you’re having unfold in front of your eyes! In my book, that’s a win-win. Here are a few ways to get involved with your children and your community that will have tangible impacts on everyone around you.
1. Volunteer at your kids’ schools
Volunteering at a school doesn’t require much more than a love of children (or just a love of yours, perhaps), a touch of patience and a day off of work. Schools are almost always looking for volunteers for class trips, school dances and class parties. Offering to make snacks for your younger children’s classmates is a great way to help out and show off your cooking/baking skills, while lending a hand at after-school activities or extracurriculars is a great way to give help when it’s needed the most. Reach out to your childrens’ teachers and ask how you can get involved, often they need help in ways you wouldn’t think of yourself!
2. Volunteer at a soup kitchen/food bank
Typically, the number of volunteers at soup kitchens around the country spikes right around the holiday season, then drops rapidly. While you might be in the giving spirit most around Christmas or Thanksgiving, soup kitchens need volunteers year-round more often than not. Fighting hunger is a full-time operation, as the homeless and impoverished often find themselves questioning where their next meal may come from and when it may be. You won’t be able to solve world hunger yourself, but volunteering a day off from work or one weekend to help feed the hungry lets you see just how big of an impact you can have.
3. Volunteer with your hands
Habitat for Humanity is just one of the volunteer options for those of us who are more manual labor-ready. If you like working with your hands building homes and repairing communities, getting involved with organizations like H4H might be a great fit. If you’re less inclined to get dirty, you can always donate used houseware items to the ReStore, a branch of Habitat for Humanity International that sells used home-improvement products at a small cost.