Volunteering – Good People Doing Good Things

Volunteering – Good People Doing Good Things

Over the years, I have been involved in all kinds of volunteer work.  Some as simple as spending a day cleaning a park to being on the board of charities.  I have also been the beneficiary of charities as it relates to my family … such as the Association for the Blind.   The last few days I became involved in a new Non-profit.  It’s just organizing.  And, all I can say is there are a lot of good people doing good things.

In this particular group, there are people from all age groups, all backgrounds with all ideas and commitment to make this effort successful.


This got me thinking about all the people out there willing to give their time, thinking, network and hands to get it done.

How People Do This

I bet there is not a person reading this who hasn’t volunteered or helped someone in need.

Some activities are organized, but so many acts of kindness are not.

Despite all the news around to the contrary, good things are happening.

One Before the Many

In my home town, they are trying to organize a group with the goal of brining the next generation into a world that celebrates tradition.  A preservation of culture.

Living four hours away, I was on the phone listening and learning.

After the first meeting, within days:

  • The group had secured a 503(b) designation
  • Created a mission
  • Spoke to the city to take over an abandoned property
  • Focus on the first project
  • Went to another event and started recruiting
  • Already have some donations

That’s a lot, right?

I think the energy of this group is going to make it successful.

Mistakes I’ve Made

When I was starting up my start-up, I built the technology, rented office space and hired staff.

Mistake, Mistake, kinda Mistake.

The first rule of thumb when starting a new business  (as I learned the hard way) is to not invest in real estate (buy or rent) until you have revenue coming in.  Barter for talent; and, if possible, secure some kind of Angel funding.

That last one is more involved than I ever imagined.

So as I’m on the phone listening, I realize that every place in the world is different.  You’d think someone who has worked in marketing for so long would know that.

But, for me, it was a shock.

Since we are talking about shock, let me go with it a little farther.  The group of people in this meeting were people I went to school with.  Some as young as kindergarten.  And, many through High School and some were even friends of my dad’s.

How is it that the kid whose mother used to call him home like the woman from the Prince spaghetti commercial, could be so polished, accomplished and full of energy?

What about the kid who skipped school so much, the truant officer would sit and have coffee with his mom.  How is he the best fundraiser around?

And, not to mention the man near my dad’s age with an Italian accent who researched how a similar organization in Rochester built their organization and member-base?  And now he was going to do it for this group as well as recruit his peers as members for the organization.

Impressive, Right?

Volunteering with this group has taught me two things:

  1. Everyone grows up (who knew I was kinda a Peter Pan?)
  2. Text books and people from Harvard don’t know as much as you think.

And a bell just went off in my head … when I was looking for funding for my company, an Angel investor group in California was interested in the technology.  They told me I should get seed money from New England.  That it would be too hard for them to help from a far.

Duh … because no one knows their market like the people in them.

This is true with my amazing friends from Upstate NY.

The World of Volunteering has Changed

This excerpt is from a 2014 Newsweek article (a little old, but still shows a trend)

“Last year (2013 in this article)the volunteer rate was 25.4 percent, or 62.6 million people, compared with 29 percent of the population in 2003, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Official statistics on volunteer rates go back only to 2002.) The BLS counts volunteering as any unpaid volunteer work done in the past 12 months, from driving a neighbor to the hospital to serving meals to the homeless or tutoring inner-city kids. The most common volunteering activity in the nation is fund-raising, followed by food distribution and then general labor.

The total hours volunteered varies widely in different parts of the country. Utah tops the charts both for the number of volunteers relative to its population and the hours spent volunteering—more than 78 hours annually on average for all Utahans. It’s likely that the Mormon Church’s strong emphasis on volunteer work has a lot to do with Utah’s rates.

At the other end of the spectrum is Arkansas, where citizens on average volunteer only a third as much time as Utah residents. The reasons for regional discrepancies can’t be boiled down to a single explanation, but in general volunteering is more prevalent in the Midwest than in other regions. One factor that seems to influence volunteer rates is financial stress. Single-parent households and families where both parents work full time or hold multiple jobs have little extra time for volunteering.”

I don’t know how they calculate that.  My only guess is they surveyed people across the country and this is what they found.

Volunteering Can’t be Lost

So volunteerism is reducing.  In my little microcosm, that’s not true.

I see small acts of kindness more and more.

Again going back to Upstate NY, I’m aware of four fundraisers for families in need.  Each one raised $25,000 or more.  Yes!  That much.

I worked on several fundraisers in New England.  A couple were auctions with crazy good gifts and organization took almost a year.  They didn’t earn as much.

These efforts were organized over coffee and care for the people who was in a challenging situation.

Pay it Forward

If you have the chance to help someone, do it.   If you want to write checks to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital or the Shriners (two of my favs) don’t set that aside.

Do it close to home because you will really make an impact.

And, never, ever, think that people don’t grow up, find their talents and have incredible good in them…even if you think of Prince spaghetti every time you see them.

One Last Thing

You’ll be surprised how a small act can make someone’s day.  

My dad had a little address book he also kept notes in it.  Everyday, he’d sit in his chair, go through the book and make some calls.  We never thought anything of it.

When my dad passed, we were in the receiving line.  And everyone shared a quick thing about my dad.  Several people told us that every year on their birthday, my dad would call them.  Sometimes it was the only birthday wish they received.  That it is something they will always remember and will miss.

We never knew that’s what he was doing.  That small call made people feel so much.

After reading this … go do something nice.  Make a call to someone you haven’t chatted with in a while.  Pickup something that fell off the shelf in the market.  Volunteer.  Just keep the good going.

Please tell us what you think the world needs more of or an act of kindness you saw that gave you a warm feeling.

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