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Phoenix Forward

5 ways to volunteer with little time or money

How to volunteer with little time or money

So you want to make a difference in the world but think you’re too busy or too broke to have an impact?

Think again, says Lauren Keeler, director of community engagement at Apollo Education Group, parent company of University of Phoenix, who believes everyone — no matter their budget or time constraints — can look out for others in need.

Keeler should know: She works with the company’s corporate responsibility department to help engage staff, faculty, students and alumni in service-oriented opportunities.

Anyone can offer even a small amount of time to helping others in need. By volunteering, Keeler says, you will be exposed to a new group of people, build your social and often professional network, and enhance your skills. What’s more, many volunteer opportunities are available that fit your interests and lifestyle.

“I would define ‘volunteering’ as willfully getting involved in your community in a meaningful way,” she says. “Volunteering makes you a more well-rounded, better person.”

She offers the following tips for getting involved:


Check out opportunities in familiar places.

Your church, workplace or school may have opportunities available for you with minimal effort. Some companies also offer paid time off to volunteers, or allow employees to volunteer during work hours. “Companies are starting to do more and more community work, and they are making it more of a priority,” Keeler says.


Do your homework on volunteer-related websites.

Keeler suggests logging on to volunteermatch.org or handsonnetwork.org to find opportunities that match your interests within your community.


Boost your donations with company help.

Keeler says many companies will match your donations if you give to a particular organization. You can also visit numerous websites, such as matchingdonations.org or donationdoubler.org, that match monetary gifts. “Look for those types of opportunities where you can get more bang for your buck,” she encourages.


Know that you don’t have to leave the house.

Many people are now doing “virtual volunteering” from their homes. You can be someone’s online pen pal, translate or type documents, or design a logo for a nonprofit group. Keeler suggests checking sparked.com for online opportunities. “The sky is the limit essentially,” she says.


Find your passion.

Once you find a cause you feel strongly about, you will make more time in your schedule to volunteer. “There is always time if you have a passion for it,” Keeler says.

“You may groan about getting up at 6 am to paint a school,” she says, “but you never leave thinking it was a bad experience. We naturally feel good when we are helping other people.”

To find out more about what University of Phoenix is doing in the community, visit our 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility Report.


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