Volunteering as a Family

Volunteering is a great opportunity to promote family togetherness while doing something good for your community. Many volunteer activities can be fun, educational, great sources of exercise, or all of the above! It's also a great opportunity to teach your children the value of helping others and making a positive impact on their community.

Many high schools and college scholarships now include volunteer hours as a requirement, so your teens should be looking for volunteer opportunities themselves. Get the whole family involved, as this can give younger children a head start on their own requirements. It's always a great addition to any resume or college/scholarship application that your child actively volunteers on a regular basis.

There's no end to the possibilities your family has when it comes to volunteer options. If you're an active, outdoorsy family, there are usually plenty of waterway cleanups and park repair projects in any community. If you like lower-impact activities, helping at a local animal shelter or food bank may be the thing for you.

The opportunities for volunteering are unique to each area, depending on the size of your town and location. We're sharing some information and tips on the more common volunteer projects across the U.S. For local-specific projects, check out your city hall and keep an eye on town announcements for events and opportunities.

Charity Fundraising Walks

Whether for a national charity or a local cause, fundraising walks can be a great active volunteer project. Fundraising walks have many positive benefits for your family as well as the causes they support, and you don't even have to be athletic to participate!

Most fundraising walks allow you to create a team and ask friends, family and co-workers to sponsor your team with a donation to the charity/cause. There is sometimes a minimum donation requirement for a team to register, but also incentive prizes for the team that raises the highest amount.

Once your team is registered and you've collected your sponsorship donations, your family is ready to walk! Some events are lap-based, with a certain number of laps around a designated course required to reach a target distance, or follow a route set at a particular distance like 5K or 10K. Others are timed to end at a certain hour to allow for the closing ceremonies.

If your family is participating in the walk, make sure that you're all wearing proper clothing for the weather. Don't forget hats and sunglasses, even if it's in the cooler months. An overcast day still carries the potential for sunburn even if there's no sun visible so always make sure to wear sunscreen. Most walks provide water stations for their walkers to ensure no one dehydrates, but you should carry extra water bottles or sports drinks just to be safe.

If your family isn't into walking at a fundraiser, but still wants to help at the event, there is a huge need for event volunteers as well. Talk to the coordinating organization at least 1 month before the event is scheduled and ask about volunteer opportunities. The organization putting on the fundraiser walk will need help setting up the event site with tables, tents, and course markers. Volunteers may also be needed to hand out water along the course, register walkers and teams, and help clean the area after the event.

When the time for the walk portion of the event is over, most events have closing ceremonies where they announce special teams, prize winners, and sometimes even provide lunch or special entertainment. Either at the event or a few days after, the total amount raised is announced so you and your family can feel a sense of pride for helping raise money for a great cause.

Local Event Volunteering

Check with your city hall or local volunteer groups for chances for local event projects. If your town puts on any sort of festival, parade or picnic events they're sure to need help with running it! Volunteer positions with these kinds of opportunities are as varied as the events themselves.

Parades and festivals need traffic directors, booth staff, runners, and break-down/set-up crews. There are usually plenty of types of volunteer positions available for active runners or family members who need more stationary jobs. Younger children can usually find a job helping older family members with their duties, and babies can join a parent at a booth. Family members who can't participate can still come out and enjoy watching the festival.

Many towns look to their residents for volunteer help with park and public space maintenance or improvement. Talk to your local parks and recreation department to see if there are any beautification or improvement projects going on that your family can get involved in. Many of these projects can teach your family about local landscaping and gardening, plus they're a great active outdoors project.

Finding Volunteering Projects in Your Area

If your family has a passion for a certain kind of good cause, whether it's raising money or awareness for a disease, animal rights, fighting hunger, or environmental improvement, there's always a way to get involved in your area. Check with national charities or organizations on the web for lists of ways to get involved with local extensions, or information on forming your own chapter.

If you know of a non-profit or charity organization in your area that you'd like to help, don't be afraid to contact them and extend the offer. Many animal and homeless shelters rely on the good faith of volunteers to come to them when they have projects. Most organizations will have a volunteer coordinator who can set you and your family up with weekly or monthly scheduled volunteer projects or hours, so it's easy to schedule family volunteer time.

If you're looking for more spontaneous projects, there are many websites that can help you get connected. VolunteerMatch.org is a great national database that allows users to create a profile with their project preferences and sign up for opportunities online. You can search hundreds of projects in your area, find organizations, and even do virtual volunteering with online tutoring and pen pal programs.

Whatever your family interests are, and no matter what kind of involvement level each member can commit to, there are always volunteer opportunities out there. If you have special needs, like a family member who cannot stand for long periods, or can't be in the heat, volunteer groups are always happy to try to accommodate.

So grab the kids, the grandparents, and find a local event that everyone can enjoy! Remember that "Volunteers don't get paid, not because they're worthless, but because they're priceless."