Volunteering as Philanthropy
Amit Raizada Foundation
February 19, 2021
As philanthropists, we often see our greatest impact as our ability to fulfill grants and support critical projects in the communities that need them. Grant writing is a critical aspect of philanthropy that helps community-based organizations—which I’ve written about extensively in the past—develop solutions that improve lives in their communities. When it comes to effective philanthropy, though, writing a check isn’t everything. It is critical that we play active and engaged roles in our communities through the act of volunteering.
Volunteering, in fact, is one of my New Year’s resolutions. While at the Amit Raizada Foundation we work year-round to support communities in need, I believe it critical that we volunteer our time and manpower to help the critical nonprofits and charities working to make an impact in Miami-Dade Country. Early January offers us all an important opportunity to truly put in some elbow grease—Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
MLK day is an optimal time to help nonprofits advance their missions. After this past year, MLK day carries a significant importance for all Americans. Last year saw some of the largest sustained mass mobilizations in support of racial justice in American history. The tragic death of George Floyd awoke millions of Americans to the challenges of systemic racism faced every day by communities of color.
At the Amit Raizada Foundation, we strive to catalyze lasting social change that builds healthier, more tolerant, better educated communities. To honor the life and legacy of Dr. King, I’ll be volunteering in person this MLK day.
Why does volunteering matter, though? Why not just sign a check or fulfill a grant?
When it comes to the nonprofit sector, volunteering and donating go hand in hand. While there is no doubt that organizations need funding, many crucial nonprofits and charities need manpower to help distribute resources. A survey from August of last year found that participation in community charitable events had decline by more than two-thirds. With the COVID-19 pandemic confining millions of Americans to their homes, volunteer forces in communities across the country have dried up.
Philanthropists have an obligation to continue supporting nonprofit organizations. But we also must take active steps to ensure that these organizations are sufficiently staffed to advance their missions.
Many organizations that provide indelibly critical services to vulnerable populations are in dire need of participants. Food banks, for example, which face the difficult logistical challenge of reaching high-risk individuals unable to leave their homes, need volunteers as much as they need items.
With the ongoing pandemic still a concern, many organizations have developed ways for folks in their communities to lend a hand virtually. I recommend reaching out to local nonprofit organizations and charities to learn more about virtual volunteering opportunities. For those quarantining with kids, volunteering online could be an activity that’s fun for the whole family. Websites like VolunteerMatch offer users databases of virtual and safe, in-person opportunities
Volunteering serves another vital purpose for nonprofit organizations. Research has shown that in-person and virtual volunteering often serve as important lead generators for future donations. One is more likely to contribute—and contribute generously—to a cause in which they have participated.
Over these last ten months, I’ve been astonished by the extent to which Americans have risen to the challenging of helping those in need in their communities. To organizing PPE collection drives for healthcare workers to taking to social media to organize meal trains for families affected by COVID-19, Americans have answered the needs of the moment. As we enter this next stage of the pandemic, I encourage philanthropists to seek opportunities in which they too can volunteer to make a difference, inspire change, and usher in a more compassionate world.