Recently I was tasked to find volunteer opportunities in Indy for our team. I was flooded with photos of bright toothed millennials in matching t-shirts, holding hammers, serving soup, and six hands patting down the soil around a single sapling. I couldn’t help but think maybe their time would be better served to volunteer in a more specialized, individual setting, using their talents to help the community while improving their own interpersonal skills and gaining a long-term feeling of accomplishment.
Okay, so I felt this way before I saw the cheesy stock photos. I was volunteering and saw highly skilled and creative people look around helplessly, waiting to be told what to do, and I knew they were capable of so much more if they were put in a volunteer environment that suited them better. Here are some ideas of how you can best use your skills to make a difference and make the most of your time.
Be a Mentor
Think of someone who helped you get to where you are. You could be that person to someone else.
If you own a business, you automatically have so much knowledge and social value to share. Support other entrepreneurs in Indianapolis by being a mentor.
For college grads, there are also many opportunities to mentor high school students, helping them prep for college and be successful once they get there. Sometimes it just takes one person to take an interest and be supportive to make a difference in a young person’s life.
Ladies! Motivating and guiding a young girl could be as simple as sitting down and sharing your experience, what you do for a living, and the path you took to get there. Girls, Inc has an hour-long lunch commitment to talk to high school girls about what you do so they can get an idea of career opportunities from your unique perspective.
Do you have creative talents to share? Your creative outlet could also help the community.
Have a passion for art and enjoy working with kids? Indy needs you. It’s no secret that art departments in schools are hurting and sometimes nonexistent. Art with a Heart tries to bridge this gap, providing art programs to schools who would otherwise go without what many of us took for granted.
Surround yourself with art and connect with the community by volunteering at Newfields. Learn about exhibits and share your knowledge with visitors young and old.
Many organizations need something simple but in demand: photos of their events. Good photos can spread awareness and get people involved. Here is one organization looking for a photographer, but if you’re interested in something another group is doing, offer your photographer services to them, and they would probably be thrilled!
Get your kids or younger family members involved in the community.
Studies show that “Adolescents who are involved in community service or who volunteer in political activities are more likely as adults to have a strong work ethic, to volunteer, and to vote.” [Child Trends] Plus, it’s a great way to try something new and spend time together.
Did you know The Children’s Museum is a nonprofit? They encourage families to volunteer together and they make sure you can work in a group, which is pretty great.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful is one of my favorite environmental organizations in Indy. It’s a low commitment way to get involved, get outside, and volunteer with friends or coworkers.
If you dig into sites like Volunteer Match, you can find quirky, cool opportunities like this one. The Indianapolis Library needs narrators for audiobooks. How cool is that? They want you to volunteer with one other person who will monitor the recording session and help you out. Plus they’ll train you.
Speaking of books, Indy Reads is spreading literacy and needs your help. Teaching someone to read or master the English language can drastically change a life.
Make a Change
In recent years, Indiana has been among the states with the lowest voter turnout, but you can help change that.
Talk about rocking the vote! Here is a one time opportunity at Warped Tour to encourage young teens to vote when they turn 18.
ACLU Indiana is committed to defending individual’s rights, and you can help with your voice and time.
This list is just scratching the surface of how you can use your unique talents and interests to help in Indianapolis. Of course, there is value and a need for ‘all hands on deck’ volunteers, serving food, and getting your hands dirty. But without feeling purposefully engaged, neither party is fully benefitting. If you or your company wants to find the best way to give with their skill sets, Selfless.ly is an Indianapolis based organization that can connect you with the right not-for-profit. Drop them a line!