Older Adult Volunteers Bring Expertise to Nonprofits

Filed under Work & Volunteering

When Margaret Ross retired from a career in nursing, she had no idea that her new life as a volunteer would lead her right back into healthcare.

Neither did Mike Chesnut, whose work building retail partnerships looks a lot like his volunteer service for a group of Denver nonprofits that are fighting homelessness.

The same is true for retiree Berlin Hall. Since leaving his accounting executive career, Hall’s desire to help at-risk families led him to volunteer to manage the books for a family services agency.

As they move into roles in service and volunteering, older adults like these are discovering that what they know is just as important as how much time they can give.

Their help couldn’t have come at a better time.

With demand for nonprofit services skyrocketing, fundraising and revenues are way down. Some experts predict as many as 100,000 nonprofit organizations could run out of money for their programs completely.

The recession has spurred more interest in volunteering among older adults, particularly among boomers, says Jill Friedman Fixler, a nonprofit consultant and co-author of “Boomer Volunteer Engagement.”

“This is a group with abundant skills and profound circles of influence and they believe they can have an impact in their community right now,” she says.

That was the idea for Chesnut. After leaving his job as a retail sales executive with Procter & Gamble, Chesnut, 64, spent several years as a counselor for small business owners. When he moved to Denver a few years ago, he decided to focus on helping nonprofits.

As he explored his options, Chesnut was struck by Denver’s homeless problem. Millions of dollars were being spent pulling families out of shelters, but programs that were trying to keep families out of them to begin with were underfunded.

After organizing a coalition of local nonprofits, Chesnut began a research project that eventually led to a successful $600,000 grant.

“Coming from the corporate world and working with large retailers, you learn to look for common interest,” he says. “What I did was put numbers to the problem.”

Nancy Benyamin, a volunteer coordinator for Jewish Family Service who worked with Chesnut, says he’s an example of the increasing importance of skilled volunteers to nonprofits that want to expand their capacity in lean times.

“Mike really enabled us to apply for this large grant,” Benyamin says. “Without his assistance, the new funding just wouldn’t be happening.”

For Ross, 72, the serious needs she saw as a volunteer for SeniorsPlus in Lewiston, Maine, made her rethink the decision to step away from healthcare completely.

After retiring as director of nursing for a state Medicare program, Ross signed up to help answer a referral phone line for SeniorsPlus, an agency that helps the local aging population get services and support.

The organization was so impressed by her knowledge of medicine and healthcare benefits that they asked her to take on a new role as a counselor, and even get additional training.

In my old job  rarely was I  aware whether the patient was insured or not,” she says. “Now I’m on the other side of the fence saying, ‘Let’s get this person the coverage they need.’”

For Hall, a Hughes Aircraft retiree, volunteering for Family Assessment, Counseling & Education Services (F.A.C.E.S.) was a way to shield some families from the challenges his own family faced when his father, an alcoholic, left.

After reviewing Hall’s background, Mary O’Connor, the executive director at the Southern California nonprofit, asked him to set up a new accounting system for the cash-strapped group.

Five months later, the books are on the way to being balanced and Hall has become a strong F.A.C.E.S. supporter. He says his experience getting involved on a skilled basis, while frustrating at times, has been extraordinary.

“If my mother had access to this kind of thing, I can see how much better off we would have been,” he says with emotion. “But I had no idea that the kind of challenges this organization faces even existed.”

To find skilled volunteer opportunities, visit www.volunteermatch.com

Article courtesy of ARAcontent


Make Your Volunteer Experience a Great One

Filed under Work & Volunteering

If you volunteered last year, you’re in good company. Fifty-seven percent of American adults said they volunteered for a nonprofit, church, school or charitable cause, according to a national survey by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans — a financial services organization that offers volunteer opportunities as part of its mission. What the organization learned in its national poll of American adults could help you make the most of your volunteer experiences.

Seventy-six percent of those who volunteer reported that aside from helping others, they volunteer to act on their moral values. That core motivation was true for the large majority of volunteers, regardless of whether they attended religious services weekly (80 percent}, a few times a month or year (72 percent) or never attended at all (66 percent).

That said, the first rule to make your volunteer experience a great one is to look for an organization or cause that is closely aligned with your personal values. The closer the connection, the better you will feel about your service.

“Connect with organizations whose missions match your values,” says Brad Hewitt, Thrivent Financial senior vice president of volunteer programs. “You will find no greater satisfaction than contributing to an organization or cause that aligns with your principles and makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Thrivent Financial’s survey also found that 47 percent of volunteers said that having new experiences was either an absolutely important or very important factor in why they volunteer. Unfortunately, that desire often conflicts with the way organizations manage their volunteers. People often get pigeonholed into doing a certain volunteer task because they’ve “done it before.” The result? Some organizations continually tap the same person to do the same job, which can easily lead to burnout.

To eliminate this problem, Hewitt offers a second rule for volunteers: say “no” to tasks that sap your strength rather than energize you. “If you’re invited to serve in a role that doesn’t excite you,” observes Hewitt, “politely decline the offer, but ask if there’s another role within the organization that might benefit from your service. Don’t settle for the usual when a change in assignments could potentially lead to new experiences and more satisfaction.”

Thirty-nine percent of American volunteers said that meeting new people was an important motivator in their

volunteerism. This was especially true of seniors, nearly half of whom (48 percent) said meeting new people was an important reason why they volunteer.

This leads to the final rule for creating a great volunteer experience: match your volunteer role to the amount of “people time” you find stimulating. People who love being around other people should look for volunteer roles that enable them to frequently interact with others, while those who enjoy time by themselves should look for tasks that require infrequent interaction.

“We’re all wired differently,” says Hewitt. “The key is to make sure that the person coordinating your volunteer service knows the type of people environment you prefer.” By following these three basic rules, you can ensure that your volunteer experience is a great one.

To learn about volunteer opportunities in your community, contact your local volunteer center, United Way, house of worship, or call (800) THRIVENT (1-800-847-4836). For a listing of volunteer centers nationwide, visit the Points of Light Foundation at www.polf.org.

Article courtesy of ARA Content

Your New Retirement Career

Filed under Work & Volunteering

The classic definition of retirement is a time when you no longer work. However for some people the idea of no longer working is not an acceptable alternative. These are people who have worked productively throughout their lives and would prefer that their retirement include work because it make their lives more meaningful and provides a purpose for living.

The same definition of retirement need not apply to everyone. One person’s ideal retirement consisting of sleeping late, relaxing in a rocking chair or going fishing would not appeal at all to many others. How you prefer to spend your golden years is a personal choice. Therefore it is understandable that some people would prefer to spend their time doing meaningful work. Of course some people work out of necessity. They did not or were unable to properly prepare financially for retirement. Regardless of the reason, certain changes are suggested to smoothly transition into a retirement career which can extend well into your seventies or beyond.

One way to start planning for a new retirement career is to consider whether the job you are in now is something that you could continue doing in the future. One factor of course is the physical demands of the job. Another is wether the nature of the business you are in is geared to younger people. By thinking this through in advance you can prepare to move into a career that will last and provide a long term income.

A lot of people start new careers later in their lives. Many older people are still creative and want to work in a job where they can use their abilities. For some their prior jobs provided them fully vested retirement accounts and benefits that they can take with them when they move into a new retirement career where they are starting out all over again.

It is not uncommon for some older workers to become successful consultants in the area where they worked for many years utilizing their prior experience and know how. It is also possible to work as a sales rep for one of the suppliers to your old company. For those with in depth technical knowledge about a certain product it might be possible to work for the company that provides that product.

You can also use the internet to promote yourself or to market and sell online. You could set up a website and launch a new business. If you are the creative type you might even sell some craft item that you can make online. You can do it yourself or hire someone experienced in web design and marketing to help you. You might just find yourself with a very successful business.

The possibilities are limitless. By having a business that you can run during your retirement you can work in a meaningful way and make money to spend, enjoying your retirement lifestyle even more. That gives you an advantage over many other retired people. In a lot of ways it is the best of all worlds.

Article by M. Paulson


Heading Back to Work with Meaning

Filed under Work & Volunteering

(ARA) – Jim Wyner is having the time of his life. He lives in La Jolla, Calif., and although he retired six years ago, he’s ecstatic about his new career after retirement. And Jim is not alone. The nation is experiencing large numbers of executives retiring, and this generation of retirees is not sitting at home playing bingo. These Baby Boomers are looking to give back to their professional community and aiming to positively affect the lives of other executives.

At 64, Wyner retired from Peak Technologies where he was the president and chief operating officer. He retired to Southern California, and was really looking forward to relaxing and spending a lot of time with his family. Just a few months later, Jim found his “next” career — and has never been happier.

“I was tired of business travel, but I also couldn’t sit at home waiting for the social security check to come in,” says Wyner. “I found that after I retired I didn’t think twice about going back to work, it was simply the next step of my life.”

Wyner jumped back into the workforce by becoming an executive coach with Vistage International. Companies such as Vistage are adapting to the needs of the “new” workforce by offering retirees a chance to use their knowledge and wisdom to guide the younger generations moving into senior executive roles.

The AARP indicates 70 to 80 percent of Americans plan to work after retirement and not because they have to, because they want to. Baby Boomers are becoming more active in their community, serving on boards, joining membership groups and volunteering after they retire.

Sixty-eight percent of executive coaches, or Chairs, at Vistage are retirees who chose to go back to work. Offering them great flexibility and time to enjoy the benefits of a retirement lifestyle, a Chair builds and facilitates groups of CEOs and senior executives wanting to grow their businesses.

Jim Wyner is now in his fifth year of being a Vistage Chair and says he loves it. Much like Jim, Dan Barnett, former chief operating officer at Vistage, recently decided it was his time to retire and spend more time with his family. Not wanting to leave the company completely, he “retired” to become a Chair and now leads a group in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area.

“It is my time to retire, not my time to stop working,” says Barnett, “Working as a Chair allows me to spend more time with my family while helping others through my experiences.”

This is a trend likely to continue. Looking forward, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected the number of employed Americans ages 55 to 64 will increase by 51 percent by 2012, while the number ages 65 to 74 will increase by 48 percent. In 2002 about one in seven employed Americans was 55 or older; in 2012 that share will be close to one in five.

Just like thousands of their Baby Boomer peers, Jim and Dan are discovering that working after retirement is no longer a trend; it is a lifestyle. The next generation needs the wisdom of Baby Boomers. With such a large gap between generations it is important to pass along the knowledge and take advice from those who know best; from those who have been at the top.

Articel courtesy of ARAcontent

Boomers Changing the Face of Volunteerism

Filed under Work & Volunteering

Baby boomers have been rewriting American culture for decades. Now, as the first wave of retiring boomers leaves the work force and the next wave is reaching the 55-plus mark, they are redefining yet another great American institution volunteerism.

In 2002, Dom Gieras retired from his job with the State of New York after 30 years. Where once his volunteering revolved around his family’s needs, including stints managing his son’s baseball teams, today, he is a volunteer technology consultant with the Executive Service Corps of the Tri-Cities. Gieras consults on projects for local nonprofit agencies, is a volunteer Webmaster for a literacy organization, and is the creator of the Capital District Nonprofit Technology Assistance Project, a Web site that serves as a reference guide to technology solutions for local nonprofit professionals.

An avid reader, Gieras, 66, says his original plan for retirement involved just the tutoring and literacy work. “But when I discovered the state of their technology I decided they needed me more there,” he says.

Now that baby boomers like Gieras have more time of their own, they are increasingly looking for innovative ways to serve nonprofits in causes they care about, volunteering experts say. And, like Gieras, many are choosing opportunities that are deeply rooted in the skills and experiences they acquired in the working world.

“Boomers came of age in an era of activism and involvement,” says Jill Friedman Fixler, an expert on boomer volunteering trends. “As boomers reach the later years of their work they are beginning to think about their legacy, how they will be using their time and skills to impact their community  and skilled volunteering is the most logical way to contribute.”

This summer, Friedman Fixler partnered with VolunteerMatch, the nonprofit organization whose Web service, www.volunteermatch.org, is the leading volunteer matching network, to release “Boomer Volunteer Engagement: Collaborate Today, Thrive Tomorrow.” The book helps charities recognize opportunities for deep engagement with older adults and reorganize their volunteer programs to support more skilled volunteering.

According to Friedman Fixler, skilled volunteering is proving more rewarding both for boomer participants and for the organizations they support. “Boomers who are pondering their next act are looking for new ways to give their skills relevance in service to their community,” she says. “At the same time, nonprofits are looking for ways to expand their capacity. This powerful collaboration is a win-win for everyone.” Skilled volunteering opportunities tap a wide range of professional expertise. Some popular opportunities include grant writing, accounting, marketing, strategic planning, board development, fundraising and social services.

The majority of volunteers 55 and older  and nearly two-thirds of men  prefer volunteer positions that employ their personal or professional skills, according to a recent VolunteerMatch report.

“We are seeing volunteerism evolve into a more collaborative relationship between the volunteers and organizations,” says Diane Stobnicke, division director for Volunteers of America. “Not only is it especially fulfilling for volunteers to be able to use their professional experience to help others, collaborative volunteering has significant cost benefits for organizations. Skilled volunteers can handle tasks that might otherwise be done by paid professionals.”

Largely comfortable with the Internet (if less immersed in technology than their kids), boomers are increasingly going online to find volunteering opportunities that match their skills, interests and schedules. More than 200,000 older adult volunteers currently use VolunteerMatch, the largest Web site for skilled volunteer opportunities. Using just a few key words, volunteers can search for opportunities based on geographic region, cause, and the types of skills they have to offer. To find skilled volunteer opportunities, visit www.VolunteerMatch.org.

Geiras says he still has fond memories of his days as a baseball coach, but his volunteer work as a technology consultant is a better match for where he is in life today.

“I still run into kids who were on teams I managed,” he says. “But I’ve learned a lot over the years and I like sharing what I know and what I can do.”

Article courtesy of ARA Content

Senior Charity Jobs

Filed under Work & Volunteering

It has been shown that people around the world are becoming more giving and charitable and have a greater interest in supporting a variety of charity groups in all parts of the globe. Because of this, fundraising jobs in nonprofit organizations are more available than ever and this is turning into a specialized career category unto itself.

In general terms of employment numbers, the nonprofit charity volunteer work arena has been responsible for creating many more jobs in the past several years than most of the other sectors in the US economy. This fundraising jobs development trend has involved a great number of people from a wide variety of industries and career fields, including seniors who have a great deal of experience and high levels of accomplishment in various business skills.

Many people are also moving to fundraising jobs in nonprofit organizations because they have had a desire for a long time to have a career that also benefits the causes and charity volunteer work that they believe in. Often people feel they are in a dead end job and would like to be able to focus their time, talents and energy in a type of work that can truly benefit others.

For people who are interested in making a career change by taking advantage of the fundraising jobs development movement, there are several things to keep in mind that can help you to get into a fundraiser job position that might just qualify as your dream job. One of the first things to do before pursuing a fundraising position with a charity group is to know exactly what types of charity volunteer work that you are most passionate about becoming involved in.

The most desirable candidates for fundraising jobs with nonprofit organizations are those who can speak passionately about the work of the nonprofit group they want to work with. Gain a deep knowledge and understanding of the cause that you have fervent feelings about, whether it concerns animals, the environment, health care, immigration, starvation, disaster relief, health care, or any other area that a voluntary charity work group is endeavoring to improve. The more you know, the deeper your level of conviction about the cause.

The next step is to carefully investigate those voluntary charity organizations that seem to share your concerns, vision and dedication. Start right in the town where you live and expand your research from there, going nationwide if you need to in order to find a match with your desires. These days, there are many online fundraiser job listings that are posted by nonprofit groups on large employment websites.

Often these organizations also post their fundraising job development plans on their websites and if they don’t currently have the right position for you, then you can bookmark their site so you can check on it regularly.

Doing some charity volunteer work for the voluntary charity you are thinking about working for is a very good way to get more familiar with the organization, the people who work there, and the integrity of the operation. Through your volunteer activities you can get an insider’s perspective and also get an accurate idea of how you might fit into the organization long term. If you like what you see, then you will be able to make connections with people in the agency so that when an opening for fundraising jobs in the nonprofit sector opens up, you will most likely have the first crack at it.

A New Face of Volunteering

Filed under Work & Volunteering

(ARA) – As the oldest baby boomers move closer to retirement, studies indicate that approximately one-third have intentions to participate in community service.

Although one would think that individuals volunteer in greater numbers once they retire, as a general rule, the percentage of those giving of their time actually peaks at mid-life and then gradually declines. At the same time, Americans who do volunteer during their early years of retirement do it with greater frequency than younger volunteers.

A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health followed 1,200 elderly adults over a seven-year period and found those that volunteered even a little, lived longer than those who didn’t.

“We have many regular volunteers at Little Brothers  Friends of the Elderly who are age 60 and over that help other elders by delivering meals, setting up special events at our local chapters and providing friendly visiting,” comments Liz Drew, executive director of Little Brothers  Friends of the Elderly, with headquarters in Chicago.

Take Anne and Lou Yauss of Cincinnati, a couple in their seventies who knows first hand the value of volunteering. They have been contributing their time and support to Little Brothers  Friends of the Elderly since the local chapter was launched in 1997. Nona Hanson, age 75, of Minneapolis has seen the benefits of sharing her skills and imparting her knowledge and wisdom through the nonprofit organization’s Elders Counseling Elders program.

Older Americans like Hanson and the Yauss’ can create a social legacy much like the early years of President John F. Kennedy’s call-to-service. As reported by the Harvard School of Public Health, other research has demonstrated that social connectedness, remaining actively engaged in the community, is a key to healthy aging.

What can you do to get involved as a volunteer with local organizations?

1. Think of the skills you have developed over the years in a job you had previously or are currently involved. Whether  it’s healthcare, finance, social service or education, the experience you have can lend a boost to a variety of nonprofit or civic organizations in your community.

2. Look beyond job skills to hobbies and other inspirational areas of your life. You have a lifetime of experiences to share with others that can leave a lasting legacy on future generations.

3. Don’t wait for organizations to come looking for you. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce to get listings of nonprofit and other volunteer-oriented organizations in your area. For instance, Little Brothers  Friends of the Elderly has nine chapters throughout the United States (www.littlebrothers.org).

4. Evaluate the time commitment you can make and decide if you want a short-term (i.e., helping out charitable organizations with special events) or a long-term commitment (i.e., making daily or weekly visits to elderly or disabled residents).

5. Dismiss the image of volunteers as those that having nothing else to do. Whether you are working part-time, full-time or not at all, you are part of a generation that is educated, motivated and able to leave a positive mark on society.

Article courtesy of ARAcontent

Tour Directing: A Dream Job for Seniors

Filed under Work & Volunteering

Baby boomers are reaching the age of retirement and it’s a great time to do the things they’ve always wanted to do. For many, this means traveling and experiencing different places and cultures. What if that passion for travel and people could be changed into a second career? Being a tour director can do just that, providing the opportunity to see the world with the flexibility to work whenever you want.

Tour directors are the special people who take care of all day to day the details that make for a successful vacation. They oversee airport, motor coach and hotel check-ins, handle customs and airline problem solving, schedule sightseeing arrangements and act as a congenial host generating enthusiasm and melding a group together into a happy “traveling family.”

“Tour directing is great job for those who have retired. You don’t need to be away for months on end, you choose your schedule, where you want to go and when you want to work,” says Ted Bravos, who 30 years ago founded International Tour Management Institute (ITMI), the first state-certified school for training professional tour directors and guides in America. “I feel older people with their extensive life experience can really make a difference in this industry. They get to share their wisdom while guiding others. They also get the added benefit to stay mentally and physically active while creating unforgettable memories.

Lee Burch did just that. After retiring from a 40 year career he decided he was ready for a new adventure. “Tour directing has allowed me to travel to places I probably wouldn’t have been able to travel otherwise, and I’m able to help people,” says Burch. “It combines both the travel, which I have a passion for, with being able to make a difference in people’s lives. It has made a difference in my own life as well.”

Sound too good to be true? ITMI’s 30 year track record speaks for itself. With the right tools, determination and personality, it can be a reality. The school prepares students for a tour directing career in a 15-day intensive training program. Students learn about the tour and travel industry through practical “hands-on” experience in the field, including 5 days training aboard a deluxe motor coach and an overnight fieldtrip where they actually perform the role of a tour director. After graduation, ITMI have a more than 85 percent placement record.

Tour directors range in age from 20 to 70 with almost half over 50 who have either raised families or had other careers before taking on the new challenge of leading tours. After becoming certified, tour directors can work as much or as little as they choose. Leading tours can also be financially rewarding as well. Besides getting a free trip, tour directors receive approximately $200 per day, plus all expenses, meals and their own private accommodations.

Joanne Connors began her career after raising three children. She had always dreamt of traveling the world, but marriage and family came first. She first learned of tour directing on a trip to the Grand Canyon.

“My tours started in New England where I was born,” says Connors. “From there the whole world opened up to the most exotic places for me. My biggest dream was to go to Africa, but on my route I went to India, Egypt and the Soviet Union. It’s been such a pleasure and a joy.”

Connors spaces out her trips so that she will have plenty of time to spend with her family, including her grandchildren. She has found being a tour guide is a rewarding and flexible career that can be tailored to complement her other interests and responsibilities.

Article courtesy of ARA Content

Retired? Travel Too Expensive

Filed under Work & Volunteering

(ARA) – Given the current economic climate, cutting back has become a way of life for many Americans. Retirees, in particular, are looking at ways to stretch the shrinking dollars in their portfolios. Common techniques for reducing expenditures include eating out less, incorporating energy-saving devices and routines in the home and eliminating or curtailing such things as club memberships and season tickets.

Exacerbated by increased travel costs, one extra that often falls away when finances are tight is travel. But it is travel that is so often listed as an aspiration of retirees — and not just “some travel” but “more travel”.

A growing number of retirees and pre-retirees have found a more affordable way to satisfy their wanderlust, while making memories and feeling good about themselves. Voluntourism, or “vacation with a purpose,” is gaining greater and greater acceptance amongst people of all ages.

Alison Gardner, in her guidebook, “Travel Unlimited: Uncommon Adventures for the Mature Traveler”, contends that older people generally sign up for volunteer service for at least one of three reasons:

1. A strong interest in a particular cause, project, or subject area, often related to a longtime hobby or an earlier career.

2. A desire to visit a region in a “grassroots” way not easily accomplished by just passing through as a stranger, either on an organized tour or as an independent traveler.

3. A wish to give back something significant to a world that has been, by and large, economically kind and physically comfortable to them in earlier years.

These are, indeed, solid reasons for joining such a volunteer team. But another equally valid reason may be the relative affordability of such trips. And what makes them less expensive?

• Room and board costs are generally low — volunteer teams usually do not stay in fancy resorts and sometimes enjoy meals cooked by area residents.

• Team members can often fundraise among friends and family to help offset costs.

• Air travel is sometimes purchased as a group, with special group rates.

• In-country travel is frequently done as a group, thus cutting costs.

• And while they can no longer look for employer support, retirees can look to organizations to which they belong to help support their trip.

One such organization that offers its nearly 3 million members the opportunity to take a vacation with a purpose at a reduced cost is Minneapolis-based Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. The Thrivent Builds Worldwide program, which operates in alliance with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program, sends teams of volunteers to locations in the United States and abroad to help build homes for families in need. While non-members can also join these teams, Thrivent members enjoy even lower costs per trip because of their Thrivent membership.

“While each Thrivent Builds Worldwide trip is different, all include work, rest and free time,” says Alison Jones, a team coordinator with the program. “No one is expected to do more than they are able on the work site and all teams spend a few days touring local historic areas and attractions.”

“It was really a great experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat,” says Wisconsin retiree and Thrivent member Fred Ebbesen. “And Thrivent’s support helped so that both my wife and I could go to New Orleans [with Thrivent Builds Worldwide].”

Retirees should definitely study the potential for “vacations with a purpose” before cutting travel completely from their budgets. For those interested in learning more, there are myriad Web sites offering further information, including www.voluntourism.org.

Article courtesy of ARA Content

Simple Ways to Include Volunteering in Your Life

Filed under Work & Volunteering

Whether it’s cooking a meal for the homeless or helping tutor a child, there are many ways to give back to those who are in need. But sometimes the hardest part about volunteering is finding the time and the right opportunity to get involved.

A recent national survey commissioned by McDonald’s, as part of its support of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), reveals that less than half of Americans (45 percent) currently volunteer their time to charity. While most people recognize the importance of volunteering, they do not prioritize it in their daily lives. An overwhelming majority of respondents (93 percent) believe that it is important to promote volunteerism among today’s youth; yet more than half of Americans admit that they’d prefer to spend their free time reading, watching television or even visiting their in-laws than volunteering for charity (51 percent versus 8 percent).

“It’s important to instill volunteerism at a young age,” says Julie Foudy, former U.S. Olympic soccer player. “I follow this philosophy at my own Sports Leadership Academy, where campers learn that sports and leadership go hand in hand. We actually host a volunteer day, where our campers visit places like the Ronald McDonald House to show the importance of giving back to those in need.”

The most commonly cited barrier to volunteering is a perceived lack of free time (49 percent). Others say that they haven’t found a charity they want to get involved with (16 percent) or that they simply don’t know how to get involved (8 percent). The survey also shed light on what inspires Americans to volunteer, with 42 percent stating that they look for a personal connection to a charity and an additional 40 percent citing involvement in their community as a driving force. Nearly one in ten Americans say they got involved in volunteering because their employer encourages it (9 percent).

“It is always important to remember those who need help and find a way to give back to your local community,” says Marty Coyne, RMHC president and CEO. “We realize, however, that between work and family it can be challenging to find the time. That is why, at RMHC, we believe in offering a variety of opportunities that fit into our volunteers’ active lives.”

There are a number of easy ways in which people can

contribute their time and get involved through RMHC. A few simple ways that people can make a difference include:

• Pick up the phone — Just make a call to the volunteer coordinator at your local RMHC chapter and ask how you can help with one of their programs, such as Ronald McDonald House, Ronald McDonald Family Room and Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.

• Be a chef for a day — Get a few people together and call your local Ronald McDonald House or Ronald McDonald Family Room. A nice home-cooked meal can go a long way to helping families who are caring for seriously ill children feel more at home.

•Bring the movie theater to a Ronald McDonald House/Ronald McDonald Family Room — Bring a wide variety of movies, pop some popcorn, and invite families to join in the fun.

• Exercise your green thumb — Help maintain the garden areas to brighten the space for the families at a local Ronald McDonald House.

• Get rid of loose change — For those who are unable to volunteer their time, simply drop off some change in an RMHC collection canister at your local participating McDonald’s restaurant.

Visit www.rmhc.org for more information on community programs and local volunteer initiatives.

Article courtesy of ARAcontent

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