Let’s face it: January 1 — the dead of winter — is probably the worst time of the year to turn over a new leaf. Everyone’s exhausted from the holidays, weather’s usually terrible, and the big seasonal foods are hardy greens and root vegetables (which might be exactly nobody’s favorite treats). It’s no wonder that 46% of people who make a new year’s resolution have abandoned it by the time February rolls around.
So this year, why not make a spring resolution. The timing couldn’t be better: as spring flowers brighten the landscape and warmer weather brightens our moods, it seems natural to want to spread that optimism around and start thinking about how we can make the world an even better place.
Here are some tips for reaching your spring goals around Helping Others:
1) I want to volunteer for a nonprofit organization
Many of us donate financially to organizations that are doing important work, but crave a more personal way to contribute. Luckily, almost any skill you have will be useful to a nonprofit organization somewhere, so there are lots of ways you can get involved.
Ask yourself a few questions: what kinds of talents do you have to contribute? More importantly, what would you most enjoy doing… especially without monetary compensation? Professional skills in fundraising, event planning, marketing, and social media are always useful, but check with your favorite organizations to find out what else they need that could be a good fit.
Not sure what kind of volunteering fits your style? Organizations like HandsOn Network keep a calendar of volunteer opportunities for almost every day of the week, from serving at soup kitchens to weeding at local parks. All you have to do is sign up, show up, and dig in.
2) I want to help in my child’s classroom
When you volunteer at school, you’re demonstrating to your kids that education is important. And according to Scholastic.com, children whose parents help at school have a better attitude and higher academic achievement.
Get started by finding out what the school’s policies are, and whether they allow parents to assist in their own child’s classroom. Some schools have an informal volunteering system while others will require you to submit a formal application and pass a background check.
Like any volunteering opportunity, think about how you’d like to contribute, how much time you have, and what days/times you can commit to. And talk to teachers to find out what they need and what projects might be a good fit for your talents and interests.
3) I want to coach a team
Kids who play on a sports team can get valuable teamwork experience, a boost in confidence, and lots of healthy activity. And many of those teams can’t exist without volunteer coaches. Whether you were a basketball star in college or just want to keep your kids’ soccer league on track, your team needs you!
For helpful general information and a training program for volunteer coaches, check out the National Alliance for Youth Sports, a nonprofit organization that works to make team activities safe and fun for all kids. And for free tools and tips, visit Positive Coaching Alliance, an organization dedicated to “better athletes, better people.” That’s a rallying cry we can all get behind!
4) I want to raise money for an important cause
Bravo! Good causes can always use more money. Bake sales, silent auctions, and car washes are tried-and-true ways to raise funds, but with so many social media tools at your disposal, digital options are definitely worth investigating — and can help you broaden your reach.
You can start with a Facebook page dedicated to your cause, or check out crowdsource funding sites specific to good causes, like DreamFund, Giveforward, and many others.
If you’re raising money to donate to a nonprofit, talk to their development department or executive director — you’ll want to get permission to use their logo and name, ask for ideas about effective fundraising, and make sure you’re not duplicating their efforts.
5) I want to organize a local cleanup
Want to see cleaner parks or get trash out of your local river? Chances are, you’re not alone. As with so many parts of modern life, the Internet has simplified the task of connecting with like-minded folks and getting everyone on the same bandwagon.
Keep America Beautiful maintains a page devoted starting your own event. But before you begin, check in with local community groups, schools, and houses of worship to see if there might be a network you can take advantage of, or efforts already in the works. And once you join a group (or start your own), spread the word with Facebook, Twitter, or a social media site that’s specific to your neighborhood, like NextDoor.
6) I want to mentor a colleague or friend
Actor Kevin Spacey believes strongly in mentorship. He says: “If you have done well in whatever business you are in, it is your duty to send the elevator back down and try to help bring up the next generation of undiscovered talent.” Here are a few tips on how to do it effectively:
Make a commitment: decide with the person you’re mentoring what kind of time and energy you’re both willing to devote to the relationship, and what kinds of help you’re willing to give. Are you going to be a sounding board and share your advice? Are you willing to introduce your protégé to people in your network who might be able to help?
Show, don’t tell: With your greater experience, it might seem natural to tell your mentee what to do in any given situation, but it can be far more effective to show them how you handled a similar situation and what you learned from it. Your aim is to help your colleague build experience — and confidence in their own judgment and decisions.