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The team from Charity Navigator, the nation's largest independent charity evaluator and leading donor advocate, shares their thoughts on emerging nonprofit-sector issues and offers tips to better inform your intelligent giving decisions.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Charity Navigator Celebrates International Volunteer Day


Have you ever wondered if your time volunteering could be helpful to a non-profit, or could be as valuable to a charity as a donation?  Let me help you put those concerns aside. My 4-year-old daughter has volunteered with us at a local soup kitchen, and it was not the disaster one might expect.  She teamed up with two other kids who were about 10 years old to set all the tables.  We found a way for our 4-year-old to constructively lend a helping hand — without a doubt, your skills, no matter how insignificant you might think they are, can help.  Many charities throughout the US, and the world, have built their entire operating model around the committed and passionate work of volunteers like you.


December 5, 2017 marks the 31st International Volunteer Day, originally adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 17, 1985.  International Volunteer Day strives to both encourage individuals to volunteer and celebrate the accomplishments of those volunteers when Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) and governments partner throughout the world. Highlighting the past contributions of volunteers both acknowledges and gives credit to those who have stepped up, and also serves to inspire the next group of volunteers who want to give back, but maybe benefit from the UN’s push to focus on volunteering for a whole day.

The focus of International Volunteer Day 2017 is acknowledging the work of volunteers responding to disasters.  If it seems hard to schedule your volunteering, imagine waking up in the morning to a natural disaster and deciding that not only will you need to take care of yourself, but feeling compelled to also help your neighbors.  Following disasters and humanitarian crises, many lives are saved before trained responders can ever reach the victims.  The scale of these disasters and the difficulty in travel and communication following a disaster means that your neighbor or friend are far more likely to come to your rescue than anyone from a non-profit or the government.  When a humanitarian crisis strikes, volunteers, both local and brought in by responding agencies often supply the on the ground labor force to distribute supplies, transport victims, and distribute information about what help and support is available.

How can you find an opportunity to volunteer, whether through a program connected to International Volunteer Day or maybe at a more local level? Luckily you have multiple options:

  1. Contact a local charity, either one you already know, or one you can find using our Advanced Search, to see if they could utilize your time as a volunteer. Just remember when taking this route that not every charity is set up to utilize volunteers. Don’t get discouraged, if you are not able to find a volunteering opportunity that’s rewarding to you and beneficial to a local charity we have two more outlets for the generous donation of your time
  2. Look for US based volunteering opportunities (both in-person and remote) on a site like Volunteer Match
  3. In the spirit of International Volunteer Day, check the UN’s online volunteering projects site

Have other ideas about volunteering?  Want to let us know how your volunteering experience went or share why you choose to volunteer?  Let us know by messaging us on social media or commenting below.

Written by Matt Dragon, Director of Engineering at Charity Navigator.

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