These days, it may feel more overwhelming than ever to be able to make our community a better place. COVID, economic challenges and the war in Ukraine are causing real stress in all of us, regardless of where we live or what we do.
But there’s one thing we can <all> do to make the world a better place: volunteer.
Everyone has time or talent that can make a difference where we work and live. And it’s good for us, too! Volunteering is an individual, family and community activity that benefits everyone involved.
When we volunteer, we benefit as much as we benefit others. Research shows that people who volunteer experience a boost in their mental health. We feel good – mentally and physically – and odds are we’ll enjoy our fellow volunteers, who have chosen to serve for the same reasons.
And employers know that providing employee volunteer engagement opportunities helps recruit and retain employees. Research shows that 88% of employers believe effective employee engagement programs help attract and retain employees; 71% of employees say it’s important to work where culture is supportive of giving and volunteering.
Local United Ways across 40+ countries and territories are providing volunteer opportunities every day, whether it’s part of a workplace campaign kickoff, or celebrating United Way’s annual Day of Action (June 21) or mobilizing people around a community challenge. Whether virtual or in person, engaging volunteers is a core part of the work United Way – the world’s largest privately funded charity – does to build stronger communities.
In Detroit, United Way for Southeastern Michigan sees literacy rates as being an area of growth for the community. Prioritizing children’s literacy provides them with the skills needed to succeed in school and beyond.The organization is striving to create a region with a rich culture of literacy, regardless of socioeconomic status. This includes increasing access to books through programming and bookfairs, supporting initiatives that builds strong literacy skills, working with caregivers and teachers to encourage a love of reading and advocating for equitable resources in communities that need them most.
Throughout March (National Reading Month), United Way connected Detroit-area volunteers with local nonprofit partners to read aloud to children. Reading to children is one of the most important things you can do to help children improve their literacy skills. United Way also distributed Children and Family Enrichment kits that provide families with essential items to fuel education at home, such as family games, educational workbooks, puzzles and more. By providing different volunteer opportunities to help improve literacy rates, volunteers or community members can support children in multiple ways. The organization will continue to lift up literacy into the summer and throughout the fall by working with corporate and community partnerships to build, stock and maintain Little Free Libraries in local neighborhoods and hosting a backpack drive to prepare children for the return to school.
Across the world, United Way engages some 1.5 million volunteers, offering a wide variety of meaningful and skill-based opportunities. Whether it be packing backpacks for children whose families can’t afford school supplies, mentoring a teen who wants to be the first in his family to attend college, or helping plant trees to “green up” the environment, volunteerism provides all of usthe chance to better their communities. Check out opportunities in your community here.
At the same time, United Way helps corporate partners engage their employees in making a difference where they live and work. For example, United Way made it possible for Abbott, one of its global corporate partners, to offer a virtual volunteer opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Called “Write A Note,” the volunteerism project made it easy for Abbott employees to show their support and appreciation for community members. Working from home, attending virtual school or being isolated is difficult for anyone, so Abbott employees wanted to send notes of encouragement to individuals who were most impacted by the pandemic. In 2021, United Way created an online platform for Abbott employees, who wrote 423 notes of encouragement to frontline workers, elderly people, minority-owned small business owners and LGTBQ students. These notes were later distributed to beneficiary organizations identified by local United Ways.
“These letters will be given to high school students during counseling sessions,” reported Chandelle Loop, Community & Events Coordinator at the LGBTQ Center Orange County. “Having notes of encouragement will mean a lot to the students who are often having very emotional conversations.”
Volunteering is a tangible way you can help your neighbors and make your community a better place. Contact your local United Way to find opportunities in your community.