Current Weather
The Spy FM

Turning The ‘Day Of Service’ Into A Longer Commitment

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
January 19, 2013

This weekend, hundreds of thousands of people — including President Obama and his family — are participating in volunteer activities around the country. Saturday’s National Day of Service kicks off the president’s second inauguration and honors Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

As budgets tighten and personal schedules fill, nonprofits are looking for new ways to attract extra helpers, and organizers for the national event hope it will lead to a permanent boost in volunteerism.

Willingness To Give Back

Volunteers, by their very nature, are an upbeat crowd. That includes a group of a dozen volunteers who came to Tyler Elementary School in Washington, D.C., Friday to organize the school library. Right now, the library is kind of a mess, and the kids can’t check out books. There’s no librarian here because of school budget cuts.

It’s one of thousands of service projects being held to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday and the inauguration. Lisa McBride came with colleagues from her conference planning company in Virginia. She says volunteering helps them to work together better, but it also just feels good.

“Some of us are so privileged, and other people, such as this school, run on volunteers like us and the willingness of people to volunteer and give back,” she says.

That’s what motivates lots of people: teenagers, working parents, retirees. Tens of millions of Americans volunteer each year. Still, the nation’s volunteer rate is less than 27 percent, about the same as it’s been over the past decade. Volunteer groups are trying to make that number grow.

Where There’s A Will …

Jacki Coyle and two of her colleagues from Shepherd’s Table, a Maryland nonprofit, are setting up a booth in a huge tent on the National Mall. About 100 groups are participating there Saturday in what the Presidential Inaugural Committee calls a “Service Summit.” The purpose is to help people learn about volunteering and then to sign them up. Coyle says sometimes people doubt they can have any impact.

“Or somebody might feel … overburdened. They have so many things in their life already,” she says. “I would just say to people, if you give an hour once a month, that makes a difference.”

Her organization, which serves the homeless, relies on more than 1,000 volunteers a year. Surprisingly, surveys show that those who volunteer the most are some of the busiest people around: working mothers.

‘Micro-Volunteering’

Nearby, Jennifer Burnside of the Junior League of Northern Virginia, is setting up a booth so volunteers can make cards to cheer up children who are ill or homeless.

“Inside the card kit, you’ll be able to use foam, stickers, glitter and glue, and write a special message for a child in need,” she says.

Burnside says the key to attracting volunteers these days is flexibility, letting them help in the evenings, on weekends or from home. Maybe volunteers could even work online, helping a charity with recordkeeping, for example.

Michelle Nunn heads Points of Light, the nation’s largest volunteer organization, which was inspired by another president, George H. W. Bush. She says nonprofits have to be more creative as needs grow but budgets tighten.

“There’s now what we call sort of ‘micro-volunteering,’ where if you actually have 15 minutes, there’s little micro-assignments,” she says. “You can help a nonprofit think about how they edit their funding letter or to come up with a great new slogan.”

Or, she says, more retirees might be encouraged to volunteer with small stipends to help with transportation costs. Still, Nunn says the surest way to get people to help out, has always been just to ask — which is what this weekend is all about. [Copyright 2013 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

12AM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center