Posted at 10:44 AM on November 6, 2007
by Sanden Totten
Next week we'll be inviting you, our savvy and might I add very attractive audience, to the UBS Forum for a discussion about America's charity habits. (Get your free tickets now!)
One of the numbers we've been looking at is America's rate of volunteering. We maybe #1 when it comes to charitable giving, but we are eighth in the world when it comes to volunteering.
Why is that, I wonder, when the benefits of volunteering are enormous?
Not for the charity organizations, they benefit too, I'm sure . . . but I'm talking about the benefits for the individual! A little cursory research has led me to believe volunteering could very well be the fountain of youth. Let me present my evidence:
In fact, if they could find a way to bottle it up and charge you for it, I'm sure big pharm would. So seriously, get out there and volunteer while it's free and plentiful. When you are still building habitats for humanity on your 134th birthday, you'll thank me.
Not to mention when you volunteer for theaters you get a few perks as well - some let you see the final dress rehearsal for free (If the director oks it), or steeply discounted/free tickets. And you get to know whats coming way in advance too!
Good point Jeremy! In fact you can get all sorts of material goods and discounts for volunteering. It's almost like getting paid . . . but really, no, getting paid is better. Oh well. If you are paid to volunteer then it becomes your job and suddenly it will lose it's rejuvenating effects.
I'm a Freemason, and it's been oft-commented (but, I think, un-scientifically-confirmed) that those who stay engaged with the memorization and ritual work of Freemasonry seem to stay more astute much later into life than the general population. It's not odd to find that the Tyler (a ritual role traditionally held by the oldest active member of the lodge) is well into his 80s or 90s.
My experience has been that those who volunteer and get engaged with society are more sensitive to not only their society's well-being, but also their own well-being. Maybe it's just self-esteem, maybe it's the sense of really being able to make a difference...I don't know!
I met my ex-wife volunteering in Boston back in 2000. We volunteered in a Common Cause office once a week, helping with clipping news papers, stuffing envelopes, updating the members database. Office volunteering is one of the most social types because the work is mindless and allows the volunteers to just chat as a group. It is also one of the easiest types of volunteering.
I moved to MN to work for the DFL. I recruited volunteers to come into the office to either go door knocking or call people. This sort of volunteer work asks a lot more from the volunteers. It is much more isolating. A lot of the time people are not home or are not answering their door or phone. When we went door knocking we worked opposite sides of the street.
Also there is the degree of intruding into the lives of strangers. Some people are uncomfortable about that. Fortunately for me I was working on something I really believed in. I would have a very hard time doing this sort of intruding for something as petty as selling something.
Recruiting volunteers was a challenge. Seniors were generally available during the day and we had them calling other seniors because they were most likely to be at home.
People younger than seniors tended to be pretty busy. Have you read the book by Robert D. Putnam: Bowling Alone. http://www.bowlingalone.com/
It talks about how Americans are much less likely to be involved in social group activities than they used to. One of the big reasons is Television. I think another big reason is the general anxiety that we all have to look out for number one because if we don't the consequences are severe.
My "favorite" response from people I asked to volunteer was that they were busy but that they would be Praying for us to win. My responding thought was, "Why weren't you praying for us to win in 2000 or 2004?"
I encourage anyone who is not married to check out Singles Volunteering in the Twin Cities.
There are loads of events where all you have to do is show up and you will be spending a few hours making a difference for some segment of society. It is much better than watching TV at home.
I have volunteered at a Concert to raise money to preserve Green Space in Egan.
I have volunteered at Feed My Starving Children twice. http://www.fmsc.org/ We packed enough food to feed 20 kids for a year.
I greeted guests at a Dressy Fundraiser for the Hammer Foundation which provides housing for Adults with developmental disabilities or retardation. There was a Dinner, Silent Auction, and a Dance.
I worked at a Carnival Booth at a Fundraiser for the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The fundraiser is called Art Per Chance. Guests won tickets at the booths which they used to increase their chances of winning donated art. There was also a silent auction.
I greeted and signed in Runners at a Diabetes Run in Stillwater. If someone showed up having raised $1,000 we rang this cow bell and announced it to everyone.
I supervised a jumping castle at the Buddy Walk which raised money for people with Downs Syndrome.
I did a envelope stuffing for Wingspan in Roseville which is a group that provides housing for Adults with developmental disabilities.
I know of one couple at SVTC that is going to get married and will have to retire from SVTC. I will email them and let them know about In the Loop.
SVTC needs more men in general and more Men and Women under the age of 40. That has been one disappointment for me (age 30).
I have to get back to work now. Have a great day.