A Guide To Volunteering > II

Posted On December 10, 2006

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Is Volunteer Work Tax-Deductable? > No, unfortunately, the actual volunteer hours are NOT tax-deductable (in the US).

However, many expenses associated with volunteering can be deducted, like mileage and other travel expenses, paper, copying fees, parking, convention-attendance fees, etc. But these deductions apply only if the volunteer organization isn’t reimbursing you for them, and most don’t. A good rule of thumb is to get approval from the organization before you incur costs.

What’s The Scoop On Virtual Volunteering? > Opportunities for volunteering over the Internet are steadily increasing, whether it be building databases at home that are then e-mailed to organizations, moderating forums or updating web pages.

Virtual volunteering offers the flexible scheduling and isolation that many people crave. However, the commitment is just as serious as in-person volunteering. According to the Virtual Volunteering Project, a few problems have sprung up because people click “yes” to volunteer before really considering their expectations and schedule for an assignment.

The considerations for volunteering electronically differ somewhat from in-person volunteering > 

  • Do you have regular, ongoing access to the Internet? Think twice about agreeing to a virtual assignment if your access is limited to a university campus and the semester is about to end, or if you are about to switch providers or computers.
  • Do you have strong written communication skills? Almost all the correspondence between volunteer and supervisor will be through e-mail, and you have to be sure that you can communicate your ideas and intentions clearly by typing alone. Also, do you answer e-mail quickly? Your communication with your supervisor will be severely hindered if he or she has to wait a couple of days before getting your responses.
  • Are you comfortable working on your own? If you accept a virtual assignment, you likely won’t have direct supervision. E-mailing a few questions back and forth is completely acceptable, but you need to be comfortable taking the bull by the horns and charging forward with an assignment.
  • Do you have strong time-management skills? It will be up to you to garner the motivation necessary to get your project done by deadline. The Virtual Volunteering Project suggests that you schedule an approximate or specific time to complete the project to which you’ve committed. Procrastinating a volunteer assignment will make the job much tougher than it should be.

Where Can I Find Volunteer Opportunities? > Innumerable resources exist to find a great volunteer position. Your local place of worship, school, library, halfway house, youth organization or United Way will likely give you some leads. Also, talk to your friends, co-workers and neighbors for more ideas.

Internet resources are equally vast. The Points of Light Foundation coordinates a network of more than 500 volunteer centers throughout the nation. Also, check out Volunteer Match, which lists opportunities by city. Sites like the Disaster News Network offer volunteer opportunities for specific causes throughout the nation.
http://www.pointsoflight.org
http://www.pointsoflight.org/centers/find_center.cfm
http://www.volunteermatch.org
http://www.disasternews.net

Additional Resources >
Corporation for National Service > http://www.cns.gov
Project America > http://www.project.org

A Guide To Volunteering > I

Posted On December 10, 2006

Filed under Survival Guides
Tags: ,

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Ah, the Christmas Season! A few days off work, some extra time with the family, and a serious date with the couch.

But perhaps you can put that lounging time to better use, by helping others. That’s what, afterall, the Christmas Spirit is all about!

People come up with a number of excuses to avoid volunteering during the holidays. But spending a few hours helping to sort toys or serve soup will be incredibly self-fulfilling and invaluable to those on the receiving end, and you can still work in that extra family bonding time by including everyone.

Why Do People Volunteer? > There’s a never-ending list of reasons why people decide to volunteer, according to  www.serviceleader.org. A few of the most common motivations include > 

  • A need to feel needed
  • Desire to learn new skills
  • Meeting new people
  • An opportunity to give back to society
  • A way to deal with personal problems
  • Sharing with those less fortunate

What Type Of Volunteer Work Suits Me? > Don’t jump into a volunteer commitment without thinking it all the way through. There are a number of considerations, including > 

  • What skills you have to offer, whether it be skills you use for your regular job or a hobby, or whether you want to train for something new.
  • What you want to learn or benefit from a volunteer experience. Many people are uncomfortable with the thought that volunteers “benefit” from volunteering, it is traditionally looked on as a completely self-sacrificing effort. But, though service should be a major motivation, you’ll be happier if you’re gaining skills or at least personal satisfaction from the experience.
  • How much time you’re able to commit. Don’t overextend yourself, or let your job or family suffer because of vast amounts of volunteer time. It doesn’t take a lot of time to volunteer successfully. It’s best to commit so something small and take on more if you decide you have the time and motivation.
  • Whether you want to work alone or in a group will have a huge impact on what type of volunteer opportunity you’ll seek. Meeting people is one reason many people become involved in volunteering, but perhaps you’re the type of person who works best independently. There are plenty of opportunities for each preference, including virtual volunteering.

How Can I Be Sure That I’ll Like Volunteering? > Be very thorough in your search for a volunteer opportunity. There are some things you can do to be assured that you’re comfortable with what you’re getting into > 

  • Research causes or issues that are important to you. Then try to find an organization that you feel helps this cause. If you volunteer your time doing something about which you’re passionate, you’ll develop a stronger commitment and sense of fulfillment.
  • Visit the organization in which you’re interested before agreeing to volunteer. Meet the people, learn the motivations and objectives of the organization and get a sense of whether or not you’d enjoy working in the atmosphere.
  • Ask your potential supervisor for a job description of volunteer work, and ask what role volunteers play in the grand scheme of the organization. Also, ask if training is necessary or available.
  • Expect an interview, or even a background check if it’s a job working with children. Don’t let this intimidate you, an interview is mutually beneficial. It poses a great opportunity for you to talk more in depth about why you want to volunteer with that particular organization, and it gives your potential supervisor a chance to get to know you and if you’re suited for a volunteer position with that particular organization.
  • Make a firm commitment. If you agree to volunteer, the organization trusts that you’ll complete any assignments agreed upon and to see any projects through to the end. Don’t let down the organization, or the people who need your help.