Contributed by Dawn Allcot
How many times do we see a Facebook post or a tweet with a link asking us to donate to a cause? Countless. Unfortunately, most people have limited budgets so they can’t donate to every campaign or need. The truth of the matter is that people with strong networks are more likely to receive help from fundraising campaigns. When motivating others to give, half the battle is building a strong community to support the cause. Once you leverage the power of community, you’ll be able to show others how to volunteer their help in a productive way.
So, as someone with a heart, as a caregiver who wants to help, it’s important to learn how to volunteer for someone without a community. First those in need have to let you know they are struggling in some way, which can be difficult if they aren’t close to many people. For those unwilling or unable to let others know they are in need, follow these steps to look for clues and volunteer your help to someone who truly needs it.
Keep an eye on loners.
Is there a young woman in an entry-level position at work who never eats, wears worn out clothes and rides the bus to work? Why not invite her to lunch one afternoon – your treat? Without prying, find out a little more about her life. Take your cues from the things she may not say. Does she talk about family at all?
Maybe you have an elderly neighbor who hardly ever leaves her house. Check in every so often. Offer to pick up something from the store for her. The best thing you can do for someone who may be alone is simply be there to listen and be a friend.
Back away if they don’t want help.
There’s a fine line between being a busybody and a Good Samaritan. If someone is resistant to your friendship, step away. You don’t know their situation. Let them know you are there if they need a helping hand (or lots of them!) and leave it at that.
Make your community their community.
If they do indicate a desire for help, that’s when you marshal your own forces. Spearhead a fundraising campaign, ask friends for clothing and/or food donations, or hold a garage sale and donate the proceeds. You might even start a Lotsa Helping Hands Community to make it easier for people to pitch in.
Find ways to help that don’t involve money.
Many people don’t want to take money from strangers or even acquaintances. Look for creative ways to help and, most importantly, show them how to build their own support community. Point them to social service programs and help them fill out paperwork. Find the local food pantry and accompany them on their first trip. Proofread a jobseeker’s resume or lend them a nice pair of shoes for an interview. Once the lines of communication are open, it’s easier to spot a need and fill it.
Give them hope.
The greatest gift you can give anyone down on their luck is hope. Any act of kindness, no matter how small, can turn a life around. Showing them that they do, in fact, have a community of people leveraging how to volunteer on their behalf will be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Presumably you are a caregiver yourself, which means you are short on energy and shorter on time. Helping someone else won’t distract from the help you already give your loved one. This might be a great opportunity to show your loved one how to volunteer and form a bond over this selfless act together. The person you help might even be an overwhelmed caregiver with no community beyond the person she cares for. The more we give, the more we have available to give.
You don’t have to take responsibility for every down-on-their-luck individual you meet, nor should you. But you may be able to do one small thing that launches a chain reaction and motivates people in your community to help someone without a community of their own.