(Family Features) Social responsibility comes in all shapes and sizes, but ultimately it comes down to one common purpose: making the world a better place. From volunteering at local shelters and community centers to feeding those in need at your local food bank, there are countless ways to give back within your community.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 25 percent of people in the U.S. volunteered in 2015. However, studies on health and volunteering show that people who volunteer report feeling emotionally, mentally and physically better. Multiple studies show that volunteering has been linked to lower stress levels, lower levels of depression and longevity.
If that’s not incentive enough, lending support to organizations in your community can often bring immediate and tangible results that give you a connection and sense of community. There are some programs that even enable people to make a difference by matching them with volunteer or funding opportunities. One example is the America’s Farmers Grow Communities program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund.
“It’s exciting to see communities strengthened by their residents,” said Angela Allen, program manager for the America’s Farmers Grow Communities program, which focuses on supporting local nonprofits in rural communities with the help of local farmers. “The good news is there are several simple and easy ways people can get involved in their communities and make a difference.”
Here are five ways that you can lend a hand:
Volunteering. Nonprofit organizations rely on the support of loyal donors and volunteers to deliver on their missions to improve the communities they serve. Time and talent are among the most valuable gifts you can give a deserving cause. One of the greatest benefits of volunteering is the chance to put your energy and abilities to use for a cause you care about, whether it’s feeding the hungry, rescuing animals or some other cause that is close to your heart. Volunteering provides a feel-good way to pursue your personal interests.
Giving blood. According to the American Red Cross, every 2 seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. There is an ongoing need to replenish a communities’ blood supplies, whether for medical uses or in the aftermath of a tragedy. Giving blood is fast, relatively painless and can save lives.
Donating. Money doesn’t make the world go ’round, or so the saying goes. However, it can make a difference when it comes to bettering the community. Nonprofit and community organizations rely on monetary contributions not only to fulfill their existing program needs, but also to expand those services to impact more people. Rather than a single, one-time gift, consider setting up an ongoing donation so your impact continues over time. For small or rural nonprofits in particular, a little bit goes a long way. Another touching way to donate funds: give in honor of a loved one, either as a gift for a special occasion or in memoriam. Rather than giving your parents a gift for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, think about a small donation to their favorite charity.
Applying for funding opportunities. Another way to help your community thrive is by exploring avenues to create new funding opportunities for nonprofits. For example, the America’s Farmers Grow Communities program provides farmers an opportunity to help a nonprofit of their choice. Eligible farmers can enroll in the program until Nov. 1 at GrowCommunities.com for a chance to direct a $2,500 donation to a local eligible nonprofit organization. Since 2010, the program has given more than $26 million to nonprofits, including food banks, emergency response organizations, youth agriculture programs and more.
Paying it forward. Not every step you take in support of your community has to be a large one. In fact, the ripple effect of a series of smaller deeds can have a truly momentous impact. You can set the feel-good wheels in motion in your own community by simply thinking about a time when someone generously gave their own resources to benefit you and paying forward that kindness with a matching endeavor. You might let a frenzied mom go ahead of you in line at the grocery store or pay for a meal for the elderly couple behind you at the drive-thru. Small gestures spread a feel-good spirit that can encourage others to do their part to make the community a better place, as well.
These are just a few ways that you can give back. Get out and meet with your friends and neighbors in your community to discover how you can best use your time and talents to help the greater good.
How Much Should I Give?
Many community organizations find that donors struggle with the question of how much they should contribute. Donors want to give enough to make an impact, but may fear what they can afford is too small an amount to be meaningful. Small nonprofits will tell you that no donation is too small. If you’re uncertain, though, don’t hesitate to ask. Most organizations can offer guidance at every giving level so you can feel confident your gift will truly make a difference.
Be a Star Volunteer
Volunteers are the driving force for many community causes. Get your start as a volunteer with these tips:
1. Identify a cause or organization that strikes a personal chord. Investing personally helps ensure you genuinely enjoy the time and means you’re more likely to give your best effort.
2. Explore what you can give. It may be basic labor like sorting donated items, making calls or stuffing envelopes, but there could also be room to lend your own special skills or talents, such as bookkeeping or artistry.
3. Approach your volunteer role as you would a paying job. Meet with leaders beforehand to gain a clear understanding of mutual objectives, organize a work schedule and deliver on your commitments.
4. Invite friends or family to join you to make giving back to your community an experience you can share together.