Seven myths about volunteering

I recently read an article that highlighted seven common myths of volunteering. I was surprised to see the word myth and volunteer in the same sentence. Volunteering seems so positive and universally accepted. It was clear to me once I read the article that even something as positive as volunteering can be misunderstood.

The following myths appeared in a blog post written by Mei Cobb who serves as the director of Volunteer & Employee Engagement for United Way Worldwide. I’ve taken these myths and added my local perspective on them.

It is tough to find time to volunteer. No doubt. Individuals and families are busier than they ever have been. Rural communities like the 35 in our service area are filled with folks wearing many “hats.” I encourage volunteers to look at volunteering more broadly than maybe they ever have. Is there something they could do for 30 minutes in their community? A few examples of past and present local opportunities include unloading a food truck on a lunch break at the local food shelf, update bookshelves in waiting areas or reading to a local classroom or child care.

Volunteering will add stress to my life. Find a volunteer opportunity that involves doing something you enjoy or find interesting. Not sure where to start? Visit UnitedWaySWMN.org and click on the “Volunteer” tab. Search needs and events based on opportunities that interest you. A retired school teacher may be interested in viewing all of the opportunities that are listed as an “Education” based opportunity.

Volunteering is dirty work that no one else will do. A volunteer is the heart of an organization. Just like a human beating heart, the dedication and commitment of a volunteer to the organization they are helping is the true meaning behind giving back and helping others. Without their help, many organizations would not be able to achieve their goals and have successful outcomes.

You have to be present  to make a difference. Technology has changed the way we live and that includes the way we volunteer too! Virtual volunteer opportunities exist! Consider opportunities like creating marketing materials, proof reading a proposal or report, logging historical information, assisting with technology/IT tasks for an organization or school, etc.

Volunteering takes time away from  family. Problems are so big; I can’t make much of a difference. Volunteer as a family! Serve a meal at Esther’s Kitchen, pack food bags for your local school backpack program, do yard work for an elderly neighbor, have each family member put together a bag to donate to a local agency in need of gently used clothing. It is not the length of time or amount of something you give, it is about giving with the time and resources that you have and is meaningful to you. It all makes a difference!

Volunteering is thankless work. Volunteering is so appreciated by organizations and communities. The second week of April is a week annually devoted to honoring those that volunteer in their communities, schools or neighborhoods. I can’t say thank you enough to the countless volunteers that dedicate their time and talents to make an impact where they call home.

Visit www.UnitedWaySWMN.org and click on the ‘Volunteer’ tab to search for one time and on-going local volunteer opportunities, wish list items and upcoming events. Great things happen when we LIVE UNITED.

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