Copied from "O" the Oprah magazine, founder and editorial director Oprah Winfrey
"Giving back" is the new buzz phrase, but the idea's an old one: Share what you've learned. Contribute to the community. Lend a hand. Offering your time, expertise, and caring where it's needed can give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Volunteering is just an organized way of being a good neighbor.
What causes or issues do you care deeply about? Since volunteering is also a good way to try a new field and learn skills, list the areas of interest you might like to investigate.
How motivated are you to help out? How much time do you have to give without shortchanging yourself or others? (Volunteering requires a commitment of time and energy, so if your only motivation is a sense of obligation, think twice before signing up.)
To find an organization that needs volunteers, scan the internet. The following web sites will help you get started.
Service leader www.serviceleader.org Comprehensive site with everything you need to know about volunteering, including cyber service. (The main requirements for virtual volunteering are internet access, good writing and communications skills, and the ability to work unsupervised.) Sponsored by the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin.
Idealist.org www.idealist.org Oldest and largest Web database of volunteer opportunities. Connects volunteers with more than 30,000 nonprofit and community organizations in 153 countries. Volunteer activities include everything from helping build a school for the handicapped in India, to being an English-conversation partner for an immigrant in New York.
Volunteer Match www.volunteermatch.org One of the Web's largest databases of on-site and virtual volunteering opportunities. Connects volunteers with more than 22,000 nonprofit and public sector organizations.
Interaction www.interaction.org Site of the American Council for Voluntary International Action, a coalition of some 160 United States-based development and humanitarian nongovernmental organizations. Lists how organizations respond to disasters; you can contact the one of your choice to see how you can help.
City Cares www.citycares.org Provides links to affiliates in 31 cities, including New York (where the organization started). Offers information on local volunteer opportunities for community service projects and events.
Nonprofit organization accepts donations of gently used furniture, housewares, clothing, books and other salable items to Housing Works Thrift Shops. Help make a better life for homeless women with children and men. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. See www.housingworks.org