A CHARITY TO CALL YOUR OWN
A recent assignment has had me interviewing dozens of small, local charities about what they do. I can't tell you how impressed I am with the phenomenal work these small organizations accomplish -- with alarmingly few resources. Supporting them all is impossible, of course, but how about making a difference for one of them? Consider marking the new school year by choosing one local charity to "adopt" for the year. It could be a homeless shelter, an environmental organization, a care facility, an arts group or an early-childhood program. By next summer your whole family will have become conversant on the issues, had fun together, met some wonderful people and made your community better. It could well be the best learning your family does this school year.
-Jenny Friedman, Executive Director
DEFINING YOUR NON-PROFIT NICHE
Make a Difference.....
First consider your family's passions and interests. Then find a group that works on an issue you care about -- Volunteer Match is a good place to start. Learn about the prospective organization by exploring its website and newsletters, taking a tour and chatting with a staff member. The group's volunteer coordinator can explain specific needs, but also suggest your own ways to help:
- Donate what you already have. A family shelter might love your gently used toys or books; an early-childhood program would appreciate your children's outgrown winter coats; an animal rescue group could use old clean towels to make beds for cats and dogs awaiting homes. A Charity to Call your Own
- Start a collection. Look at the organization's wish list or ask what they need most. Then conduct a drive to collect diapers, socks, canned goods or whatever else would be helpful.
- Help out at your kitchen table. Many nonprofits' needs can be met while staying home, such as assembling hygiene kits, making sandwiches, packing breakfast bags or tying no-sew fleece blankets.
- Host a fundraiser. A party, bake sale or garage sale gives you a chance to share the organization's great work with friends and family while raising some badly needed funds.
- Help with one-time projects. See if you can help with maintenance (painting, cleaning, planting), a bulk mailing or maybe event setup.
- Make it routine. Consider volunteering once a month to walk dogs, stock shelves, serve a meal or visit lonely people.
- Give your change. Have the kids decorate a Giving Jar, where family members put a portion of their allowance every week. After a year, the money goes to your adopted organization.
- Share on social media. Build awareness by posting upcoming events or stories about the group's work. You may inspire others to get involved!
- Be a champion. Many nonprofits lobby representatives about policies to help the people they serve. Your family can make phone calls, write letters or sign petitions to encourage change.
MAPPING OUT YOUR PARTNERSHIP
Talk About It.....
All kinds of "giving" conversations will come up as you consider adopting an organization.
- How would you feel about the entire family committing some time and energy to a specific local organization? What would be some benefits and challenges?
- Think about issues you feel passionately about - hunger? homelessness? nature? animals? arts? literacy? If we "adopted" a group, what kind of organization should it be?
- How could we find out what the group needs?
- What kinds of ways are you most excited about helping? Should we organize a collection drive? Volunteer once a month? Make things people need? What could we do if different family members wanted to take on different projects?
Learn About It.....
No matter which organization you adopt, you can learn more about various issues by checking out DGT's comprehensive list of books.
"It's hard to make things right for everyone. But if everybody helped just one person, lots of people would get helped."
- Linwood Barclay, author