If you can’t be a volunteer, volunteer to support one!

originally posted Jan. 16, 2014

If you’re like me, you have a philanthropist’s heart and a burning desire to do more for others in our community, but rarely have the perfect opportunity to make good on it! It can be discouraging to want to do good things but not have the ideal chance to do so. To encourage you, I’m going to put a whole new spin on HOW you can support your causes and your communities. If you can’t be a volunteer — offer to help someone else be one! Allow me to set the scene.

Friend: I’d really like to volunteer for that fundraising event. But it’s on Tuesday night, and Suzie has dance at 6 p.m. I can’t get her to and from dance and participate in the fundraiser.

YOU: I’m free Tuesday night. If you drop Suzie off on your way, my kids and I will be happy to drive her to dance practice. While she does her twinkle toes thing, we’ll grab an ice cream cone then pick her up. Take your time at the event and just swing by to get her on the way home.

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See what I did there? I turned 20 minutes of you playing chauffeur into several hours of her making the difference she wants to make! I also made the plan guilt-free for her, by convincing her it would be genuinely enjoyable (ice cream date!) and really no trouble at all. You personally won’t be raising funds, but you can still feel good that you facilitated the help for the charity and gave your friend the opportunity to feel good about herself. One good deed turned into two! Fuzzy math? Nope! “Warm and fuzzy” math, if you ask me. Now scene two:

Hey there, dreamy husband. I really enjoyed serving that Thanksgiving meal at the community center last year. I’d be happy to stay home with the kiddos this time so you can go.

See what I did there? I gave my partner a proactive “hall pass” and perhaps inspired him to get involved merely by suggesting it.

A friend was recently identified as a match from the bone marrow registry. I told her to let me know if there was anything I could do to help as she goes through the process. Last week she called and took me up on the offer (did I mention you have to mean it?). She’s a young college student and doesn’t have the benefit of age, travel experience and negotiation skills that I do. When they tried to set a date that conflicted with school imperatives, presented complicated medical information, or began to orchestrate travel logistics, that’s where I came in. I joined her at the clinic to help her navigate the overwhelming amount of material. I played “the heavy” to ensure the donation procedure had minimal impact on the new semester and her scholarship. And in a couple of weeks I will board the plane with her to spend a few days at the collection center. I can’t be the one to give the noble and healing gift of my stem cells. I’m not a match. But she is, and she needs someone there for moral support, handling the dirty work, and simply sitting in the waiting room so she won’t be alone. Without her, I may never have the chance to participate in this process, even though I myself have been on the Be The Match registry for years. But by offering the skills I do have, I can better prepare and support her to do her part.

What skills do you have that you could use to support a volunteer? Can you:

  • Haul extra kids around so another momma can stay home to sew teddy bears for a kids’ charity?
  • Do some extra loads of laundry so a neighbor can volunteer at that no-kill dog shelter on the weekend, instead of staying home to catch up on her towels and sheets?
  • Buy gift cards that a friend can use to buy the supplies she donates to the homeless?
  • Take your co-worker’s kids out for a Saturday morning breakfast, then over to watch their mom run that 5K she wants to achieve but never can because of her little ones?

There are countless ways you can empower and enable a giver. You can make a meaningful impact and multiply the effect of your efforts! Look for chances to use your gifts indirectly to benefit a friend and a cause. Fuzzy math never looked so good!



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