In 2003, I experienced both the happiest day of my life, with my wedding in September, and the saddest, with the passing of my mother in December. Even with the knowledge that she was sick, the end still came as a shock and rather quickly, though there never would have been enough time with her. My mother lost her second battle with cancer at 53 and my world changed forever.
My quest for healing led to a deep-rooted desire to fight for the cause. The cause being to find a cure for cancer. My sister and I found partners in our fight when we signed up to be a part of our local Relay for Life, which benefits the American Cancer Society. In this group of new friends, we found support, hope and a way to honor our mother that allowed us to begin healing. The event itself is held yearly and our family and friends come out to help fundraise, remember and donate their time and money to finding a cure. My sister and I, however, work year-round fundraising for this event. Not only does it feel good to know that we are making a difference, but it helps to know that we are keeping our mother’s memory alive in the process.
So how does this apply to you? Fundraising and Volunteering isn’t reserved for those who are healing over a loss. Everyone has a reason why they give and the only thing that matters is that you are out there doing it. No matter how bad you think your life is, there is always someone who is less fortunate than you.
Here are some tips for helping you to find your own path:
1. Find your “pet cause.” I have volunteered before in soup kitchens and donated my money to several different and worthy charities. But I have a different passion and drive now. Not only because of the loss that I experienced, but also because I found the cause that hits home with me. What makes your heart ache? What cause has always struck a cord with you? Think about it and look up the organizations that support that cause and see what you can do to help.
2. Get creative! Remember that giving not only doesn’t have to be expensive, but it also doesn’t have to be through an organization or event. Visit with the elderly in your area, invite a neighbor kid over to play with your children to give a single-parent some downtime, buy cup of coffee for a co-worker that is having a bad day. Sometimes what may seem like the simplest thing to you can mean the world to someone else. Giving is all about doing something for someone else. Huge and elaborate gestures are not necessary to make a big difference in the lives of others.
3. Determine what it is that you have to give. Whether it is a monetary or time commitment, your donation is no less significant. It takes time and efforts to raise money, organize events and help others. There are ways to give if you have only 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 dollars. There is no such thing as a donation that is too small – every little bit helps and it is okay to set a budget on the time and money you give.
4. Have an open mind. What you originally wanted to volunteer your time doing may not have a current need. Though you may have wanted to be involved with advertising, maybe they have that covered and could use more help with fundraisers, be flexible and remember why you are there. Likewise, you might change your mind about how you want to participate. With the Relay for Life, I started as a member of a team, then became a team captain and active fundraiser and am now considering taking over a chair position (part of the team of individuals who run the event).
5. Don’t be afraid to offer your expertise. If you work in the accounting field, maybe help with handling the expenses for an event. Many people are afraid to say what their expertise is since they think it will suck them into a time commitment they don’t want to be in. This is not so. You aren’t obligated, that is why it is called volunteering. Perhaps they could utilize your knowledge to teach a new process and help them be more efficient at what they do. This doesn’t involve you taking over that aspect of the event if you don’t desire to, but still helps the leadership create a smoother, more profitable process.
No matter what path you take to becoming a volunteer, you will find that it is as rewarding for you as it is for those you are helping. It helps to create a new outlook on the world when you realize how many people are out there that truly care and do what they can, in their given situations, to make a difference in the world. My goal still remains the same as when I started. We will find a cure for cancer in my lifetime. This is one time that I look forward to being put out of a job!