15 Creative Ways to Volunteer and Make a Difference
If you have a favorite hobby or activity, volunteering for a related cause can make a big difference in your life—and someone else’s.
Stretch your marathon miles
If you love running marathons for charity but want to do even more, like this marathon queen who raised $200,000, consider becoming a running partner for a sight-impaired runner. United in Stride matches visually-impaired athletes with sighted counterparts in marathons and shorter races across the entire country. If you have even more time to give, Achilles International is another organization that pairs volunteers with disabled runners of all kinds, including kids, and those who require specialized equipment. As an Achilles volunteer, you will commit to helping an athlete with a disability during weekly or bi-weekly training sessions, as well as during the race itself.
Give cuddles to newborns
It’s a sad fact of modern times that many infants are born addicted to heroin or opioids, and need to go through withdrawal. The withdrawal process for these littlest beings is long, painful, and filled with suffering; worse still, many of these newborns have no adult to soothe them through this process. Holding, cuddling, singing, and speaking to drug-addicted babies helps them recover more quickly, reports Uplift. Towards that end, volunteer initiatives known as cuddle care have sprung up nationwide. Volunteer cuddlers require a 4-hour course prior to cuddling. To get started, reach out to any local hospital which has a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), or check the list of participating hospitals. Addiction can happen to anyone, which is why it’s important to know the silent signs of pain pill addiction.
Support America’s National Parks
From coast to coast, America’s National Parks provide a protective haven for wildlife and boundless adventures for people. Park budgets have shrunk, reducing access, and eliminating multiple programs. You can help by volunteering, either long- or short-term at your local, national park. You can also make park volunteerism the cornerstone of an unforgettable vacation, during National Park Week or anytime. Families can start a tradition of giving back, by doing volunteer work together. Many national parks have volunteering opportunities specifically geared towards children. You can learn more at the National Park Foundation’s website, or through the National Park Service. Get inspired by checking out these spectacular photos of America’s National Parks.
Ease loneliness in the elderly
Imagine rarely experiencing physical touch, or not having someone to talk to. Human beings thrive on connection. Multiple studies show that friendship can prolong life, as well as enhance the quality of it. All too often, the simple joy of human interaction disappears for people as they age. There are a multitude of ways you can combat that reality by volunteering for the elderly. Things you can do include visiting seniors in assisted living facilities or in hospice centers. You can also volunteer through local organizations, such as ElderFriends, or Elder Helpers. Have a special skill? Teaching it to an older individual can help keep their brains sharp. Learn about teaching computer skills to the elderly through VolunteerMatch. There are 5 countries where people aging well—but America is not one of them.
Hold a tag sale for a cause
If you and your friends and neighbors have more stuff than your homes can hold, consider throwing a block-long tag sale and donate 100 percent of the proceeds to a local school (or other charity of your choice). If you earmark your earnings for something specific, such as new books, art supplies, or an IT makeover, you can reach out to companies who support that mission and ask them to match the funds. Get the schoolchildren involved by having them sell baked goods or lemonade. Follow these garage sale dos and dont’s to maximize your donation. Then discover the 25 things in your attic that could be worth money.
Protect ocean wildlife
Need another reason not to vape? Like other plastic, bottles, bags, cans, cigarette butts, and assorted debris those tiny, plastic vape tanks that are littering city streets end up in the ocean—and it’s killing wildlife. Fish, ocean mammals and birds mistake tiny bits of plastic for food, and eat it. Others get tangled up or strangled in debris. You can make a difference by volunteering to clean up waterways, such as rivers and oceans, through the Ocean Conservancy‘s year-round efforts. Join a neighborhood cleanup campaign, or start your own. You know the saying: charity begins at home. You can me a big difference just by swapping out these 30 reusable versions of things you use every day for greener versions.
Find your match
If you’re not sure where to begin, a clearinghouse like your local United Way chapter, Points of Light, or VolunteerMatch can help. “Our platform gives volunteers the ability to search for opportunities that adhere to their skill level or learning outcomes,” says Basil Sadiq, marketing associate at VolunteerMatch. “Volunteering is a great way to learn a new skill or put an existing skill into practice, all the while giving back to the community.” More than 110,000 nonprofits work with VolunteerMatch to post their volunteering needs. Search them based on a cause you’re passionate about and/or the skills you’d like to share or develop. This inspiring volunteer story from President Jimmy Carter will encourage you to lend a hand.
Strut your stuff
If you love the spotlight and are involved with community theater production, join an organization that puts on performances for charity. Or build a community theater that gives back—in Columbiana, Ohio, a town that won our Nicest Places in America search, every person who wants to participate in the local playhouse gets to perform. Musicians on Call is another nonprofit for performers; its mission is to share music with hospital patients in 12 cities. Small, quirky options abound for someone who is into the arts.
Plan a party
Take your birthday-bash skills to the next level when you volunteer with Brightening Birthdays, a project of Volunteers of America. You’ll help bring birthday celebrations (cake, presents, hats, the works!) to kids and families struggling with homelessness. Some hospice agencies and senior centers also plan celebrations for their clients, and you can help. Or, name a cause you’d love to support (say, research and advocacy for a particular medical condition) and you can join up with a nonprofit that needs your time and talent to plan special events.
Like to knit or sew? There are tons of ways to share your skills with people who need help. Did you know you can knit a prosthetic breast for a woman who’s had a mastectomy? Yes, with Knitted Knockers! More options: