BBB: Take these 5 steps before volunteering time

Published on Saturday, 1 February 2014 21:42 - Written by By Mechele Agbayani Mills Tyler Better Business Bureau

Donating your time to a charity is just as meaningful and important as deciding to make a cash donation. However, you want to be sure the charity you’re considering is accountable and will use your time and talent wisely. If you’ve made giving back part of your plan for this year, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends taking five steps to make sure your contribution makes an impact.

In today’s tough economy, charities, now more than ever, need volunteers to help support their cause. Although volunteering can be a rewarding experience, you want to be thoughtful and do your research when donating time, just as if you were donating money.

Much of the work that charities perform is made possible because the volunteer numbers are steady. BBB recommends taking these five steps before volunteering:

Identify your skills: Volunteering opportunities are available for any skill level. Consider what you’re good at and what services you’d be particularly well-equipped to provide. From stuffing envelopes to construction or even providing pro bono legal advice, you can find a good fit regardless of your education or talents.

Consider your passions: Maximize your enthusiasm for volunteering by finding an issue that resonates with your personal passions. If you’re a runner, consider a marathon fundraiser. If you like history, look for opportunities to help out at an archeological dig. By identifying your passions, you’re more likely to stay engaged with the charity and be a more effective volunteer.

Determine your availability: Make a realistic estimate of how much time you’re willing to give. Maybe it’s just a weekend of picking up trash at a park, a week of building schools in a foreign country or maybe you’re willing to make a long-term commitment to tutoring someone to read. It’s better to volunteer the amount of time you can reasonably handle, rather than drop out later.

Research the charity thoroughly: Just as you would before making a cash donation, research the charity fully before you volunteer to make sure the organization has a commitment to standards and accountability. You can view BBB Wise Giving Alliance evaluations on nationally soliciting charities for free atwww.bbb.org/charity .

Commit to stick with it: Most volunteers don’t have long-term goals with charities they work with. Even if your early attempts at volunteering weren’t a good fit, keep at it and look for new opportunities to give back.