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Finding the Time – & the Right Fit – to Give

Discovering volunteer opportunties

Thrivent member Jeff Burt is a busy man. He's a software engineer at AT&T in Columbia, Maryland, and he's raising a family, but he still manages to carve out hours to volunteer. "It makes me feel really good to step up in a role where I'm not sure what the job is, and be able to help others in a community where there's a need."

For some Americans, volunteering is already part of a lifestyle. For others, it's something that's squeezed in between football practice and flute lessons. But whether you're a teen, stay-at-home dad or grandmother, there are ways to lend a hand – or an ear or a voice – without a huge time commitment.

Here are tips for finding the right volunteering fit:

  • Start with your heart, says Susan Yount, community engagement coordinator for the East Region of Thrivent Financial, in Matthews, North Carolina. She says your heart will tell you where to devote your time.
  • Think about what you want. Do you like working by yourself or in a group? Do you want to get out of the house or volunteer from home? Do you want to travel? Do you want something unique or a routine?
  • Include the family. If you're worried that a volunteer effort takes you away from the family, choose causes that include them. Enlist your children to help clean up streambeds or hiking trails, prepare lunches to deliver to Thrivent Builds workers or spend a few hours on a Saturday washing cars for charity fundraisers.
  • Homework can work. If it's hard for you to go somewhere, you can still lend a hand by making phone calls, stuffing envelopes or doing administrative work.
  • Shop around, says Mark Andrews, vice president of volunteer and institutional engagement for Habitat for Humanity International. Don't feel badly about passing up the first opportunities that come your way, or if you try something but decide you don't like it. "If it's not a good fit," he says, "look elsewhere."
  • Build new skills. Andrews says some people sign up for a Habitat project because they want to learn how to drywall. In other words, it's okay to think in terms of what you'll get out of it.

Ideally, people will be involved in volunteering throughout their lives. This volunteer continuum, as Andrews calls it, starts with kids in classrooms and carries through retirement. "The initial push is always a challenge," he says of volunteering. "But hopefully after that first effort, there's a lifetime transformation that happens – a renewed interest in doing things for others."

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